I don’t want my employees working from home as frequently as they currently do

A reader writes:

I manage a small team of three entry-level employees, two of whom are new (they started about two months ago). Our company has a very lenient work from home policy – essentially, if you meet your goals and are available for important meetings, you’re able to work from home with manager’s approval. Different teams use this policy to varying degrees, but generally people don’t take more than one day/week at most to work from home. I generally use it once every week or so myself.

My situation is this – both new employees have been utilizing the working from home option quite frequently, generally two days per week. Sometimes it’s a matter of necessity such as car trouble or doctor’s appointment, but usually it seems to be a matter of preference. While both are meeting their goals and are very responsive when working from home, I still feel that they should be in the office more than they currently are. However, since both are doing well, I’m not sure how to frame this for them, especially if I were to reject a request to work from home. My only rational is that it makes my team look bad (those who sit near me have commented on my team not being present). Am I being old-fashioned in expecting my new employees to be in the office the majority of the time, or should I not worry about the working from home since performance hasn’t suffered?

Not necessarily, but the problem here is that you haven’t told them your expectations — and the only expectations they have heard (from the company policy) say that it’s okay to do what they’re doing. So you need to tell them your expectations or they won’t know, and that’s not fair to them.

First, though, you’ve got to first figure out what you actually want your work-from-home policy to be and why. I’m a huge fan of telecommuting, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons for wanting people to work from the office most of the time. For example: the work you do is collaborative, it’s hard to schedule meetings when people are frequently out, things often come up that need to be handled in-person, it allows you to better give feedback and input on people’s work, or whatever it might be. It’s also completely reasonable to want people in the office while they’re new, even if it’ll be fine for them to work from home more once they’ve been there longer. There’s lots of in-person learning that goes on when people are new, even aside from formal training — things like absorbing the culture and how you operate — and it’s generally easier as a manager to get a feel for a new person’s work and give useful feedback when they’re around most of the time. And these are entry-level employees, so that all goes double.

You noted that people have been commenting on how often your team is gone, and that’s a consideration too. If your staff is doing something that’s out of sync with your company culture and causing eyebrows to be raised, you might decide that you’re willing to spend some political capital defending it — or you might decide that you’d rather save that capital for other things.

Anyway, you need to decide where you stand on these factors and what you want your policy to be, and then you need to communicate it to people. The problem currently is that you have expectations that you haven’t shared with your two new hires. You’re frustrated/concerned that they’re out of sync with what you want, but you haven’t actually told them what you want. You need to do that, because it’s not fair to penalize people (even if just mentally) for not following a rule that you never actually told them about.

You might be thinking, “But even though I didn’t tell them explicitly, shouldn’t they have picked up on my expectation anyway, by noticing what others on our team do?” It’s true that many (even most) people will … but not everyone, and especially not entry-level workers who generally are just figuring out workplace norms anyway. And entry-level or not, some people are literal and if the company says “you can work from home with your manager’s approval,” they’re going to think that’s the policy, period, without factoring in cultural cues about how people actually use the policy. So if you want them to do something differently, you need to tell them.

If you do end up deciding that you generally want people limiting their working from home to one day a week, I’d say this: “I want to talk to you about our work-from-home policy. In general, I prefer people to work from home no more than one day a week, because of (reasons). On rare occasions, I’m willing to approve more than that, but I’d like the default to be no more than once a week. I realize I didn’t clarify this earlier, and you haven’t done anything wrong by doing it more often, but going forward, please stick to this guideline.”

Also, say this now rather than just rejecting their next work-from-home request and explaining it then. This is a big-picture conversation to have since they’re now used to doing it a different way, not something to spring on them the next time it comes up.

{ 201 comments… read them below }

  1. SilverRadicand*

    I think Alison has hit the nail on the head. Clarifying why you want it done this way, and explain it up front. With newer employees, it is good to be more explicit about the things that are going into your decision than is necessary with a more experienced employee.

    Now time to remind myself of that as I work with my newer employees…

  2. Jane, the world's worst employee*

    I work-at-home full-time now and I love it. I’ve been working professionally for 10 years and am fairly self-disciplined when it comes to work stuff. I will say that when I was an entry-level professional, I don’t think working at home would have been beneficial for me for a few reasons – 1.) Since I was so new to the workforce, I really needed to work in an office and observe professional norms/learn office politics, etc., 2.) I moved out-of-state for my first professional job and I really needed that social interaction that I got from my co-workers (it was a young office and there were several of us that were in similar life stages around the same time), and 3.) if I’m being honest, I think my work ethic would have suffered a little bit because I would have been tempted to do other things instead of work.

    My company is very pro-WAH, but there are still plenty of departments that frown upon working at home. For example, a former supervisor of mine was old-school and felt that you needed that “face time” in the office in order to be considered for promotions, etc. This supervisor was very vocal and said that people who worked at home were hurting their careers at Big Corporation. While I understand where he was coming from, I disagreed with this school of thought. To me, someone who is a stellar employee, meets deadlines, is dependable, gets along well with co-workers (whether in-person or virtually), and does great work – it really doesn’t matter if they are working at home or in the office every day. Personally speaking, I don’t think working at home has hurt my career at all.

    1. Jane, the world's worst employee*

      Forgot to add this to my original response…

      I do think it’s vitally important to set up guidelines around work at home policies, and do it sooner rather than later. At my old job, my manager sat down with the team and discussed it with us. As a team, we decided who would work at home on what days (i.e. Wakeen will be WAH on M, W, and F; Jane will be WAH on T and Thursday, etc.) and it worked very well for our team. Of course, if we had major team meetings/events that required office attendance, we were expected to be there. I think the main difference in my situation and the OP’s is that non of our team members were entry-level and had been in the workforce long enough to know when they were expected to be in the office. By discussing as a team openly, it helped everyone to get on the same page.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        +1 on your part about assigning certain days to people. Was going to suggest this or similarly limit the # of people out on a given day. That way her dept isn’t always getting the side eye for what appears like multiple staff out.

      2. Elsajeni*

        And I was thinking the exact opposite — if part of the problem is difficulty scheduling meetings, it might help to have everyone WFH on the same days, so you don’t end up with a situation where you can never meet with Jane and Wakeen at the same time (or where you’re disrupting Jane’s or Wakeen’s WFH plans every other week to call them in for a meeting). Depends on exactly what the OP’s underlying concern is, I guess.

        1. AnonymousaurusRex*

          Exactly this! We have a general “work from home Wednesdays” policy. If you have a regular WFH day, it’s Wednesday. You can still flex hours or WFH if you have the plumber coming or something, but for those with a regular WFH schedule, we keep everyone’s day on Wednesdays, so everyone knows to limit meetings on those days.

    2. Workfromhome*

      Without saying the exact words multiple managers and even HR at my current employer have essentially said “If you don’t work in HQ you are not getting a promotion..EVER” 10 years ago we had regional offices but then they closed them down and put all the employees outside of one area into their homes to work from home. Its not even a matter of choosing to work from home hurting your career. Essentially unless you want to ask for a transfer (and get it) you are essentially shut out of promotions regardless of how good you are. HQ is a revolving door of outside hires because they refuse to even consider that someone who is remote can do those jobs.

    3. T*

      I think there is some truth to getting ahead quicker when you have more face time at the office but it depends on the person. It’s harder for an average, middle-of-the-pack employee to make an impact from home. And if you like to do the bare minimum, you might seem like a first class slacker if you work from home. Most of us have worked with people who literally browse the Internet 3-4 hours a day but they are always at their desk so nobody pays them much attention. Those people tend to really stand out (in a bad way) when nobody sees them in the office. However, an above average employee should be just fine.

  3. Allison*

    ” because it’s not fair to penalize people (even if just mentally) for not following a rule that you never actually told them about.”

    So much this!

    I mean this goes for so many life situations, because ordinary people can’t read minds!. For example, parents, it would be great if your kids stepped up and did chores without being asked, but unless you actually ask them to do it, or say “honey, I’d like you to _____” every [day/weekend] without being asked,” you can’t get mad when they don’t do it.

    I have an agreement with my manager where I get one work-from-home day a week, although occasionally I work from home twice, if I’m sick or some car issue pops up (which it does more than I’d like, my car’s a junk bucket). I usually acknowledge when I’m doing it twice instead of the usual once, but I’d like to think my manager would tell me if I was working from home too often. If she said “hey, you worked from home twice last week, I’d rather you not work from home this week” or “I’ll allow it this week, but please try to limit yourself to once a week,” it might not be what I want to hear but I’d totally understand! The ability to work from home once a week, without necessarily needing a reason, is a luxury I know most people don’t have, and I’m grateful for it, so I don’t want to abuse it.

    1. RVA Cat*

      +++ This!

      Think about how much interpersonal drama could be eliminated if we could all remove “They Should Just Know!” from our mental vocabulary.

      1. the gold digger*

        But then I would lose half the material for my blog.

        Example: Sly and Doris would get very upset that Primo’s half brother Jack would not come over to help them with the trash, the yard, whatever.

        Me: Did they ask him to?
        Primo: No. They think he should just know.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          This is totally off-topic, but I love your blog. I stumbled across it when I was having a hard time with my in-laws, and I have really enjoyed reading it. (I haven’t spoken to my in-laws in almost two years now, but my husband’s stepmother still has her ways of twisting the knife, so I’ll keep reading!)

          1. the gold digger*

            Thanks, MsChanandlerBong – Sorry to hear about your in-laws, but it is nice to have company in The World of Bad In-Laws. (I did not know such toxic people existed until I got married, so I guess I have been lucky!)

    2. The IT Manager*

      Arggg! I know. I was reading the letter and thinking you’re mad that they are following the actual rules and not the “unwritten” policy of no more than one day a week WFH.

      Although maybe the gist of the letter is how to tell them that a manager’s policy/unwritten policy is more strict than the company written one.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is exactly the point I was trying to make a few weeks ago: https://www.askamanager.org/2015/09/my-interviewer-gave-me-a-scientology-test-employee-is-taking-vacation-at-our-busiest-time-and-more.html#comment-880804

      I work from home one day a week also, and when something is on my calendar far enough ahead of time I usually shift that day, either to come into the office on that day, or to take a different day to WFH because I have to bring the cat to the vet. But if something came up with only a day or two of notice, I’d probably apologize and say I needed to work from home on Friday again because the teapot repair person is coming.

  4. Bend & Snap*

    If they’re doing a good job, why is this a problem?

    I think (hope) the butts-in-seats measurement of performance is going the way of the dodo. Working culture now consists of WAY more time on than off…I’m not sure what the damage is as far as working at home, but you’re risking a hit from your employees if you take this perk away without a really good reason.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, potentially because of the issues I discussed in my second and third paragraphs. Or it might not be — but the OP has to think it through and figure it out.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I hope the OP comes back.

        It seems weird to have a work from home policy but for using it to be out of sync with office culture.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not out of sync to use it. It’s out of sync to use it as much as these two people are. That doesn’t seem weird to me. Especially with entry-level employees, where you probably do want/need them there in person quite a bit.

        2. sam*

          not necessarily. I used to work at a place that was fairly generous (at least in theory) re: WAH policies, but it was a general rule that you didn’t get permission to WAH (except for extraordinary circumstances or the odd one-off (we all had long commutes so things like a doctors appointment could really mess up the day) during the first 3-6 months of employment. You had to basically prove yourself first before you were entitled to this perk as a regular thing.

          And even then, every manager was different. I generally don’t like working from home, because my home is not particularly conducive to the concept (small apartment, street noise, annoying cat, annoying neighbor who plays music all day, etc.), so I never really did it except in really limited circumstances. But one much more senior colleague did it pretty regularly, and it was apparently part of her agreement with the original “big boss” that she was entitled to WAH 2-3 days a week. Well, we got a new big boss, who was really annoyed at the fact that said employee was “never” in the office and instituted a policy that we all had to be present all the time. That went over like a lead balloon, and the employee in question actually pulled out her written agreement (!) entitling her to WAH as part of her offer package.

          But the whole thing created a lot of tension for the rest of us, and the rest of us were a little aggravated at the new policy that basically said that if we needed to take an hour in the morning to go to the doctor, or a PTA meeting, then we basically had to take a PTO day instead of working from home (the commute was such that the the shuttles from the train to the office stopped running after a certain time, so you couldn’t actually get to the office easily if you didn’t actually leave for work fairly early in the am. Also, you couldn’t really work from the train, so even if you could get someone to leave the office to come pick you up, it was much more disruptive to work to be on the train in the middle of the day than to just do your back-to-back conference calls from home at that point).

        3. OP*

          I think it’s exactly for the reasons Alison mentioned in her response. If the two were more experienced, it would be a non-issue, but right now it can be frustrating trying to schedule meetings and the quick 10 minute trainings on things that they need as new employees.

          A bit more context- I might be a little gun shy on this issue anyway, because a previous employee who worked from home quite a bit (he was experienced in the role at that point) ended up having major performance issues, and I think much of that could be tied to not being in the office and focused on work. Again, not saying that’s the case with these two, but it’s another piece of the picture.

          1. Althea*

            Definitely focus on those reasons for wanting them around! Even if new, I would be frustrated if my manager said ‘don’t work from home so much’ but couldn’t articulate a reason why. It would make me feel like she is basing her assessment on my face time, rather than the value of what I produce.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              I second this. Especially because working from home might have been something that appealed to these new employees when they were deciding to take the job.

              1. Lea*

                You’re letting past experience burn you when you said they’re great and have no issues. I don’t think it’s worth it for that reason. If all the meetings they need REALLY require a fourth day in the office… I would question why those many meetings arenecessary, but sure. It sounds like the perception of other teams is bothering you alot.

          2. TootsNYC*

            And don’t let them argue with you about it.
            If they do, pull out the Mom card: “because I said so.”
            “I want it this way. I want you around more so I can get a better sense of how you’re doing, and so you can pick up a lot more little things than you can get when you’re isolated. And there really isn’t any sense in talking about it anymore, because I’m not going to change my mind.”

            I also often think (as a manager and as a mom) that there are times you need to enforce discipline just to keep everyone on the straight-and-narrow.

            I think it’s fair to say to them as well, “I’m receiving comments about how often you are out–it makes the department look bad, and it makes me look weak, and it makes you look like people who take advantage. Especially since you are both so new, and your reputations are still being formed. So you will need to be in the office for 9 days out of 10.” We will all benefit.

            1. Tara*

              But “Because I said so” is completely ineffective both as a parent and as a manager. You want your employees (and children) to think of you as making thoughtful, reasonable decisions– not just enforcing your will for the sake of it.

              1. TootsNYC*

                No, I said give the reason first. But when they start to argue, that’s when you say, “those are the reasons, this is not open for debate.”

          3. The IT Manager*

            Would it make sense to suggest that you all work from home on the same day – Fridays say – so that 4 days of week you’re all there in person?

            I 100% agree that there’s a benefit for new employees to work in the office just to learn culture, have someone to ask questions of, to have brief training meetings etc. There’s something less intrusive to walk over to someone’s desk and chat than to call them up on the phone. In person you have the visual clue if they’re busy or not.

            1. TootsNYC*

              but then one day a week, your department is completely unavailable in the office, and nobody else who might need you can find you in person.

      2. LBK*

        I hope the OP agrees this is an issue worth spending political capital on, because I really think it is. It’s stupid to make a policy because of the emotions of another department who should be minding their own business (literally – this is work, you have a business to contribute to and those contributions don’t involve worrying about whether someone’s in the office or not).

        1. Cat*

          If the perception of the other departments is literally the only issue, I agree with you. But if there are business-related reasons one day per week is the norm company-wide, there may be very legitimate reasons why other departments are commenting (like they’re not getting the help they need).

          1. LBK*

            Oh, I absolutely agree that if there’s concrete reasons that could factor in, but the OP herself says it’s just the image issue:

            My only rational is that it makes my team look bad (those who sit near me have commented on my team not being present).

            Maybe I’m reading too literally and those comments are “Jane is never here when I need her for work-related things” and not just “Jane is never here,” but I’ve heard the latter version often enough to suspect that these are more likely just jealous busybodies than people concerned about real business needs.

            1. INFJ*

              I agree that the only reason seems to be for appearances. I used to have a boss that made directives that had nothing to do with our level of productivity/accuracy, but were based solely on the perception of other departments. It was very demoralizing.

              1. I'll take a vowel for $800, Pat*

                Ditto. The manager uses the WAH days @ once a week.
                The newer people use the WAH @ twice a week.

                The busybodies complaining don’t seem to have a manager who approves SAH days often.

                Younger employees seem to really value their time-away-from-work. If your pay/benefits sucks anyway, and the manager takes away a perceived perk, do the math.

                Said manager should also be willing to give up her SAH days to manage and guide these newbies.

                Maybe she would rather have poorly performing employees who warm a seat every day “for appearances.”

                Hope my spelling is ok. That does seems to be a dying art.

        2. Jane, the world's worst employee*

          This happened to my team in a former job – our team had a pretty generous work-at-home policy and it worked very well for our team. However, another team within our department wasn’t allowed to work from home because this particular manager believed that his team members needed to be in the office at all times. Not surprisingly, this caused a lot of hard feelings between our two teams.

          One of the team members on the other team went up the food chain and complained. This particular team member had a job that required office attendance (admin assistant I believe). This resulted in a blanket work at home policy for the entire department. Everyone adhered to it for awhile until some of the managers banded together and talked to upper management about going back to the original policy. They were successful and everyone is much happier from what I’ve heard.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this. It sounds like a variation on previous letters to AAM, where a worker has arranged with their boss for flexible time, or to leave at 5 for physical therapy, or whatever, and co-workers are making comments about it.

          OP, there is kind of a sense from your letter that you are angry at your workers because other people are commenting, and you think that makes you look bad. Unless these new hires are very badly out of sync with work culture, or their absence is in fact causing problems, why not just (politely, professionally) tell the nosey parkers to STFU? “Yes, Wakeen requested and got permission from me to have this schedule, in accordance with company policy, since he’s meeting all of his goals.”

          $5 says some of the complainers are people who irrationally value butts-in-seats time, and have their own direct reports grumbling about not being allowed to work from home.

        4. MaryMary*

          If other department’s reactions are OP’s main concern, I think there are things she could do to manage their perception. Maybe it’s that someone needs to be in the office each day to repesent the team (with exceptions for emergencies or weather days when everyone works from home). Or maybe a day where the entire team needs to be in the office together. Or communicating the team’s work from home schedule to the entire team, so people aren’t guessing if Jane’s desk is empty because she’s in a meeting, or because she’s working from home.

          I’d also consider if your team has a work from home schedule, or if they’re randomly deciding what days to come in and when to work from home. A set schedule and predictability might help counter the perception that people can never find your team when they need to.

        5. OP*

          I’m definitely not willing to use political capital in this case. The comments from other teams were, before Alison’s helpful answer, the only concrete issues I could come up with as I thought about a) how to request that they work at the office more often and b)my own concern about them being absent so frequently. However, it’s true that I’m often juggling trainings and meetings around when they will be vs. when they aren’t in the office, and it is quite likely that they are missing out on valuable pieces of the office culture and the informal training that will make them better at their jobs.

          I really like a previous commenter’s idea of a 3-6 month “probationary” period until they are proven in the role before they take off more than 1 day a week. I really love the WFH option that my work has, it’s really just the fact that these two are new.

          1. einahpets*

            On your scheduling issues: One thing that has worked well for my department / team is having a well defined schedule of our work-from-home days. It sounds like up to this point your team has been able to take days at home on a whim — it might be easier to have everyone define their days. And make it clear that there may be weeks where a meeting will require people in the office, so some flexibility is expected on part of the individuals based on business needs.

            1. LBK*

              Agreed – on my team everyone’s either a Tuesday or a Thursday. That way it’s still easy to set up meetings M/W/F.

              1. sam*

                yeah – I was the one who required everyone to work in-office for the first 3-6 months before they got to negotiate a WAH schedule (aside from the occasional one-off). The other policies we had involved the fact that Mondays could never be WAH days because that was when our big deal assessment meetings and staff meetings were, and you were expected to actually show up for those. Plus, it avoided many of the “are they really working from home or are they extending their weekend” questions.

          2. Althea*

            It would probably be fine, if you want to schedule a training, to just schedule it and expect people to be there. And to let them know that your scheduling comes first, and their home-based appointments (and whims) come second to that in general.

          3. Jen S. 2.0*

            Also, OP, you used the words “absent” and “take off so frequently.” Is that the perception? I think it’s really important to emphasize that they are WORKING at home. They’re not absent and they’re not off. They should be reachable and responsive, and if they aren’t, that is the bigger issue. I WFH a lot, and you better believe that if my boss calls me, I answer. If people ask where they are, you need to highlight their reachability, and not just their not-in-the-office-ness. “Jane’s teleworking, so you should call or email her.”

          4. Lora*

            Sure, for people you haven’t already hired and set expectations with. If they’re performing fine at home, they’re getting the training they need. They WILL resent you if you change it!

            1. OfficePrincess*

              I would argue that if OP is having a hard time scheduling training with them, things aren’t going fine.

        6. TootsNYC*

          Reputations are powerful things.

          The OP looks like a weak manager to the people around her–letting newbie employees essentially never be in the office, and buck the cultural norm.

          The newbies look like people who will take advantage.
          And the department looks like it’s unprepared, and that people can’t count on it.

          1. Millennial Money Club*

            “The OP looks like a weak manager to the people around her–letting newbie employees essentially never be in the office, and buck the cultural norm.”

            Who cares as long as performance doesn’t suffer? Results are what counts, right?

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      That was my first question, although OP answered it at the end — that other people are making comments.

      However, I don’t think the response is necessarily for the manager to lay out a “work from home less often” policy (although she should do so explicitly, if that’s what she decides she wants). It could simply be for the manager to talk up her team more. “Oh, I see Joe’s out today.” “Yes, he’s working on the XYZ project at home today.” “I notice Wakeen’s been out every Monday this month.” “Yes, and he’s more responsive on Monday than any other day of the week! I think he’s even more productive at home than he is in the office.”

      It’s for OP to decide whether that would go over well, but it’s definitely a possibility.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’m sad to say that at our company, the butts-in-seats measurement is gaining importance. Our WAH options, while never as generous as this, were curtailed recently. Now, you pretty much can’t do it at all, where you could to it for days when you had a mid-morning appointment or a sick kid or something. In our case, I think it’s related to a mandate to cut overheads by X% and they feel people at home are not productive, so it’s different than the OP’s situation where they are productive.

  5. Lily in NYC*

    Ugh. Sorry OP, but I just can’t deal with this kind of thing. When something is offered as a perk, it should be offered freely and without judgment to those who choose to use it. My boss offered to let me work from home once a month because they couldn’t give me a raise that year and I loved it. But then I started getting the guilt trip from him every time I worked from home and I was made to feel like I was being a slacker or like I was playing hooky. Which was infuriating because I actually am much more productive when I work from home (I’m not distracted as easily there). Nor was I doing anything wrong. It was his issue, not mine.
    Either take the perk away from everyone, change the rules, or learn to live with it.

    These people might have accepted this job mainly because of the flexibility to work from home. Be prepared to lose one or two of them if you change the rules now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, wait, though — we don’t know that these employees were promised that they’d be able to work from home with this particular regularity. It sounds like different departments do it to different degrees, and two days a week is uncommon enough that other departments are commenting on it.

      I agree that companies shouldn’t promise significant working from home as a benefit during the hiring process if it really only means one day a week, but we don’t know what was promised to them, if anything.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think it is a mistake to allow new employees to work from home except in emergencies; once they are well integrated into the culture, are reliable and have had appropriate early feedback then moving to a more open system makes sense.

        1. INFJ*

          That happened when I started my current job and had no problem with it. I didn’t even know when I applied and interviewed that working from home was an option, so I was pleasantly surprised!

        2. Allison*

          I agree, it’s a good idea to have people working in the office 5 days a week, unless they really need to work from home for some reason. My once a week arrangement didn’t come about until I was about 8 months in.

          1. Wow*

            But you ask for feedback on whether you are “too old fashioned”. Wow. I think the answer is clearly yes with this +1. Many jobs do not require 5 days a week in the office as work is dependent on outputs which don’t require collaboration and are measurable on results, not facetime.

        3. OfficePrincess*

          That’s been my experience in the past. In order to get on the wait list for WFH (it required a full company-provided setup), you had to have been there at least a year and gotten at least a 4/5 on your most recent evaluation. I don’t see anything wrong with employees having to prove themselves in order to get a great deal more freedom.

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        Yes, but OP says that the company policy just states that as long as you make it to meetings and make all your goals, you can WAH as often as you like. (S)he also says that “the ONLY rationale” (s)he has is that other departments are making comments. It sounds like they were promised they could WAH however much they liked and that wanting them in the office more is a personal preference of this particular manager.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She says the policy says “with manager approval.” That’s not an insignificant caveat; in every company I’ve ever known, that means “your manager’s preferences come into play here too.”

          1. Oryx*

            But the OP IS the manager, right? So she’s approving them to work from home this often and then getting upset that they are working from home so often.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep, and that’s why I say in the post that she needs to be clearer with them about what she expects, not mentally penalize them for not knowing.

              But Rat in the Sugar was saying that the policy promised WFH as much as people want, and that’s not the case.

      3. INFJ*

        I would like to point out there’s a difference between other departments commenting on it in a way that signals “that’s unusual for this company” and other departments commenting on it with an attitude of “must be nice!” and I think that context is missing.

        1. OP*

          I can’t say myself where the comments are coming from – probably both places, since some teams use it more or less than others. I will say that the teams who sit in the same space as us (the commenters) do generally adhere to the 1 WFH day/week cultural policy, but again, they are all much more experienced in their roles and have proven success behind them.

    2. OP*

      It’s a perk, with firm guidelines around it. The employees are not being guilt tripped by me or anyone else around using it. Yes, I need to clarify my expectations around frequency, but it’s only something I’ve struggled with because they’re new, not because they are using it. I also think that as an entry-level employee, it’s important to learn what working in a professional environment means, especially for someone early in their career. They can’t learn that from their home office (or at least, not the same kinds of lessons.)

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Then I think the answer is easy – you just say that maybe it wasn’t clear when they started but that you’d prefer they not work from home as often for X amount of months. And then reassure them that they didn’t do anything wrong and that you think they are both doing a good job but that you want them to be in an office environment until they are a bit more seasoned.

        But I still can’t get behind the reasoning here – although I admit it’s more of general “people should be allowed to work from home more” than this specific situation.

      2. Lora*

        So you want them to come into the office more, despite their performance being good, so you can ‘test’ them for another few months (period unspecified) and for their own benefit (because they will learn things about working office culture that they can’t already in 3 days?) That other workplcaes are less flexible than yours is not a reason to… be less flexible.

  6. Bend & Snap*

    Also, two days at home does not feel excessive.


    1. Cat*

      It really depends on the job. I work in a job where work-from-home works but when it’s more than once a week or so, it starts to be a big burden on people in the office (since we do work very collaboratively and since there are in-office tasks that have to be accomplished by someone who’s there). I think that it’s often invisible to the work-from-homer, because they’re not seeing the stuff they’re not doing, but it leads to a lot of resentment from people who are in the office.

      I know there are lots of jobs where that’s not the case and work from home 100% of the time is great, but I think it’s not unusual for it to become a problem at a certain threshold.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Agreed. I work for a bank. Nowadays it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to work at home a lot, since I handle mostly the big picture-type stuff that isn’t time-sensitive, but in my earlier days I was someone who handled many time-sensitive daily tasks, so working from home more than one day a week would have been a burden to other people, or I might have missed an important deadline because I didn’t have access to an application I needed.

    2. LSP*

      I agree. I LOL’d when I read “two”. After the first paragraph I expected 3 or 4 days, but 1 vs 2 days. GMAB.

      But in all seriousness, AAM’s responses often open my eyes to things I hadn’t considered. It’s very easy to have an emotional response to these things, as I clearly had, haha. But yeah, expectations from the get go! And I think someone mentioned upstream but as a new employee it’d be a bit much to already work 2 days from home even if my company was supposedly lenient in the WFH category. After 6 months, I’d go for it. Sanity > office BS politics.
      I’d love to get an update on this one.

    3. einahpets*

      Yeah, I work from home twice a week and have coworkers who work 100% remotely (so, they are almost never in the office). If another department decided that because their duties required them in the office 4-5 days a week and made it so I’d lose the ability to work those two days from home, I’d be mad. I have no problem with getting my work done from home. Sometimes I am waaaay more productive at home.

    4. Lacy*

      I agree! In my previous position, I had a set schedule of working from home twice a week. But I often worked remotely even 3x.

      In my current role I work from home once a week, and I really miss that 2nd day! Eliminating two commutes instead of one was huge, as well as being able to sleep in a little bit more. It refreshed me, and I was much happier during the three days I was in the office. Now I miss the 2nd day but am grateful that I do have at least one. I think I’d feel burnt out coming in 5x a week.

      In all future positions, remote working is something I always consider when accepting a job.

    5. TootsNYC*

      two days at home feels REALLY excessive to me.

      I feel strongly about working at home–in the exact opposite direction.

      But then, I’ve only ever been in an interactive department.

  7. LBK*

    To add on to Alison’s bit about them not picking up on cues, I think this is also something where I might intentionally ignore cues until told otherwise. I view WFH as a benefit and I expect to use my benefits the way the policy outlines unless told otherwise. If you were doing the same thing with vacation – not telling me I couldn’t use it but giving me the evil eye if I asked to take a week off – I’d probably also disregard that, or I would at least bring it up to you and ask you to clarify whether you’re approving or “approving”. But I certainly wouldn’t just stop doing it without you telling me I have to. I’m not going to self-select out of benefits because my manager is too vague and scared to lay out a policy for me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But come on, it’s really not the same. The policy is “with manager approval.” Your paycheck isn’t contingent on your manager deciding whether or not to pay you that week.

        1. Mike C.*

          I agree that the comparison has it’s limitations, but the fact remains that for many of us that work at companies with solid, established WFH policies still face managers who arbitrarily refuse to allow their reports to use it based on old fashioned beliefs, gut instinct or a need for a security blanket.

          For what’s it’s worth, I think many of the reasons you cite are solid, even the “you’re new so you should be around more often” ones. I’ve just seen too many places that make a big deal about WFH for environmental/publicity/etc reasons and then never let folks actually use it in a meaningful way.

        2. neverjaunty*

          It is the same as the vacation issue. If you get to take your PTO “with manager approval”, and your manager throws a snit every time you try to use it, then you’re being offered a benefit you’re really not allowed to use, or at best punished for using.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            But OP doesn’t have a problem with WFH happening at all, just this frequency. That’s more like your manager saying, “No you can’t use PTO for every Friday and Monday, you need to be in the office some of those days”.

            1. neverjaunty*

              It’s more like your manager getting irritated whenever you ask to take an actual vacation, instead of just using the occasional day of PTO for sick leave or getting your car fixed.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  10% isn’t a small thing either, but the issue is less ‘is this a reasonable amount of time to WFH’ than ’employees being punished for not meeting unspoken expectations at odds with official policy’.

                  There’s certainly nothing wrong with OP clarifying that she prefers to have them WFH no more than one way because of [defined reasons], especially as there are problems like trying to jugging training around them. But ‘well, it just doesn’t seem right’ or ‘they should have known’ or similar, nebulous disgruntlement really is more like a company where everybody gets PTO but you just aren’t expected to ever USE it.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But they’re not being punished. I think everyone is in agreement that she needs to clarify her expectations and not hold it against them that they didn’t know.

          2. sam*

            But “with manager’s permission/discretion” means all sorts of things. And at least in part your manager may be aware of company priorities or upcoming events that would necessitate adjustments/consideration.

            I make a point of trying to take all of my PTO these days, and no one really bats an eye, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I discuss my plans with my manager first and that I make sure that I don’t schedule time off in the middle of our busiest times of year. For example, earlier this year I went to him and said “I’m planning on taking two weeks off this summer. Would it be better in July or August?”. His response? “it would be better if you could do it in August, after the XYZ filing deadline”.

            So that’s what I did. and then no one bothered me or gave me a hard time about taking two full weeks off. And he was doubly appreciative of the fact that I actually checked with him first before booking anything.

            Obviously some folks have to plan around family obligations/school holidays/etc. and don’t have that much flexibility, but sometimes its just a matter of not dumping after-the-fact info on people.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Well, yeah, and if they’re gone two days out of almost every week, they’re not around to observe that most people are in the office on those days.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Here’s why AAM’s advice is so important.  You really need to be able to justify why you don’t want certain people utilizing a benefit that’s available to everyone else in the company.  AAM has given you some fantastic reasons as to why, and I hope those reasons fit how you feel.  I say this because in your original letter, you sounded like you didn’t want these two otherwise excellent employees working from home, but you didn’t know why and/or couldn’t articulate why.  That’s not a realistic or productive conversation to have so please don’t have it until you know the whys.

    My ex-boss was notorious for prohibiting common things or wanting things done in an inconvenient way.  Her orders were further compounded when she’d made random exceptions here and there for certain people.  When gently asked about it, she’d get defensive and/or fly off the handle.  It was clear she didn’t know why she wanted what she wanted, and that behavior made her a poor leader and hard to take seriously.  

    Most importantly, you need to be able to answer their questions when you talk to them about this change.  Not because it’s going to be like the debate team, but because they’re adults, and you owe them a reasonable explanation and discussion.

    1. Cat*

      Wait a minute, though. The OP doesn’t want her employees not to use a benefit that’s available to everyone else in the company. She wants them to use the benefit in accordance with the way that everyone else in the company is using it. That’s a totally different thing and calls for a totally different conversation.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I read the second sentence as written in the company’s policy and the third sentence was an unwritten rule that was never discussed.

        If that’s the case, then I can see how someone would use that lenient policy more than once a week. I know I would.

        Also, if you don’t want people to use that option more than once a week, you need to say that. You meaning the company or the OP.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Right. And the more important point is, OP needs to know WHY she wants to have that conversation, and needs to know before she talks to her employees. “I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right somehow” isn’t good leadership, and it’s not a good way to explain policy and company norms to your employees.

          1. OP*

            Absolutely – and I think that figuring out my own thinking around this was what prompted writing in to Alison in the first place. I couldn’t articulate why I felt icky about it, and I certainly wasn’t going to have a conversation with them/limit their WFH time unless I had a good reason that I could articulate and defend. I think the answer given, as well as some of the feedback from commenters, has given me a really great way to clarify my own thinking. “WFH is great, continue using it, but I would like to see you in the office 4 days a week at least for the first three months until we’ve established your success in the role and training is complete.”

            1. einahpets*

              I think that is a good start, but if it were me I would acknowledge that you should have been more clear in your expectations for utilizing the WFH policy at the beginning. And before you enact the change, you might want to consider having a more ‘defined’ policy going forward — how many days a week max can be considered and should they be scheduled out in advance? are there certain days of the week when you expect everyone in the office?

              If I were the employee, I’d hear ‘established success in the role’ and think that there must be an issue with my performance, and if I then asked you about said performance issue and you acknowledged there was none… I’d wonder why you’re framing this whole change as a performance issue when it is not.

        2. Cat*

          Right, but everyone else in the company is apparently operating under the same unwritten rule. It does need to be communicated to them, but it’s not a “you don’t get to do what everyone else is doing” conversation. More a “here are the norms around how we do this.”

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”

            Remember this movie quote?  That’s exactly what I’m thinking of right now.

            You can’t have unwritten rules like this in the workplace if you expect people to adhere to them.  You’ve got to put it in writing or officially make it a statement.  And if you’re making a statement just for a few people, you’d better explain why that contradicts the original interpretation.  (An interpretation that may or may not be company policy.)

            1. Cat*

              But it sounds like the policy is “work from home with your manager’s approval.” The manager wrote in to ask how best to talk to her employees about wanting her approval to be for one day a week, not two. That is someone asking for how to address a policy head-on, not being passive aggressive about it.

              We’re in agreement that the employees shouldn’t be blamed for their interpretation to date. But that doesn’t mean that the manager is prohibiting them from doing something everyone else in the company gets to do. It sounds like one day a week is the norm and, presumably, other managers are also approving work-from-home for that perio.d

  9. Jubilance*

    OP, how much weight are you putting into the comments from other teams? This is slightly off-topic, but I really hate this kind of thing. Workplace norms won’t change if people continue to be held to old standards – you must be in the office certain hours, taking parental leave will damage your career, etc. If your employees are productive and getting their work done, and meeting their deadlines, why should those outside comments matter? Instead of running to your team and telling them are wrong for using a company-wide perk, perhaps you can use this an opportunity to help move your company culture forward. Supporting your team and pushing back on the idea that folks MUST be in the office as often as others simply because “it’s what we do” will go a long way with your team. I know I’d think differently about my manager if I knew he succumbed to corporate pressure and told me to not use a company perk solely for optics. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Charityb*

      It’s possible that the manager just wants the team to use the WFH only as often as the rest of the company does. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that really. It would be worse if she had argued that they shouldn’t work from home at all because that would be essentially removing a perk which is a jerky thing to do.

      1. Mike C.*

        There is something wrong with that if there’s no concrete reason for the restriction. AaM gave several possible reasons, but saying, “that’s just how things are done here” is nothing more than a logical fallacy.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I do communications for a company that, on the whole, isn’t big on technology or communication. Most employees have social media sites blocked on their computers, for instance. My boss has asked me to use my phone less often at work because people have commented to him that I’m on my phone a lot. His take is that perception is reality, and I need to avoid looking like I’m goofing off. I can understand that, but I wish he would tell these people “Actually, Ad Astra is in charge of communications so it makes sense that she’s sometimes checking social media or using the calculator function or keeping up with the news, or sending a photo to her work email, or whatever it is.”

      My guess is that he doesn’t think it’s worth the political capital to defend me, or perhaps he’s not so sure himself that I’m working rather than goofing off. Either way, I’m trying to train myself to use the calculator and social media tools on my desktop, even though I’m more comfortable on a phone. But I’ve also stopped working through my lunches, instead spending an hour away from my desk so I can check my phone in peace, and that’s a little bit of a hit to my productivity and accessibility.

      If you’re comfortable with what your team is doing, explain to the other departments why you do it this way. Don’t cramp your good employees’ style trying to please everyone else if there’s no good business reason to do that.

    3. OP*

      Not much – I had to get over that pretty quickly, since when I started I would get into the office at 6:30 and leave at 3:30. People would look at me funny because while they didn’t see me getting in early, they sure as heck saw me leaving early! I think any office with such generous and flexible employee benefits is going to have some pushback from the old regime – and I can deal with that. Usually I respond to commenters with a “yeah, love the WFH option!” or “you should see how many calls he makes from home!” which takes care of it. I guess the big reason for mentioning the other people’s comments is that it reinforced my own inclination that they should be in office more, but without the helpful piece of explaining why. Which I now have. If the comments continue, I’m happy to keep up my responses (they are not going to tell me how to run m team) but so far no one’s commented more than once after I’ve replied to them.

    4. Sneaky*

      I’m with you – I loathe decisions being made based on other people’s complaints or “how it looks.” If the work-at-home teammates aren’t answering calls and emails when they’re not in the office, that’s a legitimate problem and it needs to be addressed. If it’s just “so-and-so worked at home two days this week and I don’t liiiiiiike that,” well, too bad. My first-grade teacher used to tell the class busybody, “You mind your own work and let [other kid] mind his,” and I think that’s advice we can all use as adults too.

  10. Swarley*

    “While both are meeting their goals and are very responsive when working from home, I still feel that they should be in the office more than they currently are. However, since both are doing well, I’m not sure how to frame this for them, especially if I were to reject a request to work from home. My only rational is that it makes my team look bad (those who sit near me have commented on my team not being present).”

    If this is your primary (or only) justification for this, then I disagree. I’d absolutely spend political capital defending the policy to anyone who questions my team’s absence from the office. Especially if the work-from-home policy doesn’t specify a percentage of time one must be in the office. I don’t see this any differently than someone commenting on when a coworker goes to lunch, or comes in and leaves the office. If it doesn’t impact your ability to do your job well, then mind your own business. And that would be my reaction to anyone who has concerns over one of my employees working from home.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed, in a vacuum (if in fact that’s the only reason she objects*). But if she’s currently spending capital on, for instance, stopping staffing cuts to her department, this might not be the battle I’d fight. It really depends on the wider context when it comes to how you might choose to spend capital.

      * Although I do usually think brand new entry-level employees will benefit from being in the office more than three days a week.

      1. Swarley*

        That’s a fair take, especially the point about new employees benefitting from being in the office. Assuming no other capital is being spent, would your advice to the new employees change after say, 6 months in?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Depends on the role and the particular employee. Someone who has demonstrated that she’s picked up the culture and how the organization does things and that she has a strong work ethic and is totally on top of things … and who isn’t deriving significant benefit from being around to observe or be observed (the latter for feedback purposes) … and whose job can be done just as well from home without impacting other people … sure. But those are a lot of caveats, and I think it’s reasonable if a manager decides the net benefit is still on the side of having them in the office at least four days a week (if not five).

          I say this as a huge fan of telecommuting. I just think it’s important to recognize the other side of the equation, and people can go too far in making it sound like it’s always the best way to go.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I really hope this OP chimes in and shares more about her situation. I’m getting the impression that OP feels like she has to bend to the “We’ve always done it this way” crowd, but maybe I’m projecting.

        1. OP*

          Projecting. I’m trying to figure out my own thinking. As well as how to present it, and balance reasonable expectations with a reasonable company policy.

  11. Observer*

    I find the question a bit unnerving. I sounds like the OP either doesn’t want to let them use this benefit “just because” + “people are talking” OR hasn’t thought through the real reasons why this is not a good idea. Neither is really acceptable.

    “just because” is never an appropriate reason to limit someone’s benefits. Generally, neither is “people are talking.” Part of what makes a leader is the willingness to spend political capital to make sure that their people are being treated well.

    On the other hand, if there are real issues here, then part of your job is to think that through, identify and articulate those things before you decide what needs to happen. The reality is that if you can’t do that, you simply can;t be an effective manager, much less a good leader.

    And, either way, YES a thousand times over to Allison’s caution about penalizing people for not conforming to unstated expectations. If you think it through, decide that this really is an issue and that they need to be in to office more, then TELL THEM. Explain what you need and why you need it.

    1. edj3*

      But sometimes the “people are talking” reason highlights the optics of the situation.

      For example, someone mentioned upstream something about budget cuts. I will say that while I have no problem with the high performers on my team working from home pretty frequently, if we are in the midst of another round of headcount reduction, I’m going to ask for all hands on deck. I want everyone to see how much work my team puts out and exactly what kind of effort it takes.

      Similarly, if we are working on a high profile, sensitive projects (of which we have a few right now), working in the office makes those projects go far more smoothly with less risk to deadlines, plus it reduces any temptation to finger point that W@H people were maybe the reason something went awry.

      1. OP*

        I also don’t think optics are always so dismissible. Yes, WFH policies should be used if they are offered, but as a wonderful colleague mentioned to me (when he was talking about only coming in to the office 2-3 times a week himself) “it’s always good to remind them why they pay you”. And coming into the office, in our company culture, is the default expectation – written or no. Yes, people work from home a lot – there was even a joke made at a company-wide meeting that our office should be in Italy since so many people “WFH” on Friday. But the fact that people do go out of their way to explain WFH more than once a week confirms that being in office is the default. Culturally.

        1. LBK*

          “it’s always good to remind them why they pay you”

          But they aren’t paying you to come into the office, they’re paying you to do work. Otherwise you’d be able to just sit on your ass at your desk all day and still be a great employee. You remind them by showing that you’re still delivering on what’s expected whether you’re in the office or at home or communicating via satellite phone from an igloo in Antarctica.

          I don’t want to harp on you too hard because it seems from your other comments you understand how outdated this way of thinking is, but “this is just the culture of our office” is a dangerous justification to use, particularly as it extends to things like “brogrammer” culture that has a disparate impact on hiring diversity.

          It’s also circular reasoning if everyone is just doing it because everyone else does. A company’s culture is derived from the people who work there; there’s no higher authority that insists an office’s culture must be a certain way. If everyone agrees this is an illogical standard, what’s stopping your company from changing it and reshaping your culture?

          1. edj3*

            But sometimes and even oftentimes depending on the job, you are getting paid to come into the office to do the work. Some systems require security protocols which mean you can’t even get to them from outside the network.

            And sometimes problems can be resolved faster in a super quick face to face conversation.

            Look, I love working from home. I have no problem with my team working from home when it makes sense. But to say that someone is categorically as easy to reach when working from home as when sitting in the office just hasn’t been my experience. That’s not normally a problem in my world, but there are times I cannot reach someone by phone or IM or email, and then that’s a problem.

            Bottom line, it’s a perk not a right and I get pretty frustrated when people think it should be the norm, hands down, end of story. It should be the norm when it makes sense and it doesn’t always make sense.

            1. LBK*

              I’m talking about situations where there’s no concrete impact to working from home vs working remotely. I skipped my WFH day this week because I needed to be available for frequent face-to-face conversations that day, so I’m certainly aware that there are times when it’s just easier and more efficient to be in the office. I’m referring to offices where people are expected to be in the office just because it looks better, not because it matters to productivity.

            2. LBK*

              Also, there are times when you can’t reach someone while they’re in the office either because they’re in a meeting, at lunch, in the bathroom, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc. There’s just as many scenarios where you wouldn’t be able to get ahold of someone at a moment’s notice and would have to send them an email or leave them a voicemail.

            3. Observer*

              There are obviously some jobs that need presence. Your receptionist, for instance, is probably not going to be able to work from home ever. But, in the case the OP outlines, this is not the issue. The job is getting done, and done well, apparently. So, it’s a matter of optics here.

              The idea that, in such a case you need to be in the office to “remind people why you should be paid” rather than the quality of work, IS an issue. It says that physical presence in and of itself is more important the the job. By that logic, it should be even better to come early and leave late – even if it means that I wind up doing my shopping, banking and other personal tasks during the workday, as long as I’m discreet about it.

              The bottom line is that there are indeed a lot of good reasons to require physical presence. And in those cases, complaining that you can’t work from home is just silly. But, presence as a way to justify your position, when it really has nothing to do with the job is silly.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “just because” is often a cue for some sort of reaction on the subconscious level.

      I think the OP is wise to heed that cue, and to stop and try to figure out what it is that the “back of her mind” is trying to tell her. Once she knows, she can evaluate whether it’s something to heed.

      I’ve learned to never ignore those “I just want it that way” instincts–because when I really look, there’s something else going on, all the time. Something subtle, but real.

      1. Observer*

        But that’s just the issue. If the “just because” is really an indicator of a significant issue, a good manager needs to figure that out and, at MINIMUM, be able to to articulate it to herself, and preferably to the person being affected. And that hasn’t happened. (Yet, at least.)

  12. The Other Dawn*

    I totally agree with everything Alison said. OP needs to figure out what the needs of the business and department are and whether working remotely more than once a week an oddity, and then taking into consideration the fact that these employees are new. I’d say that new employees need to be in the office as much as they can so that they can benefit from the in-person collaboration, the overheard conversations (I’ve gained so much great info that way!), and also to integrate into the company culture.

    “Am I being old-fashioned in expecting my new employees to be in the office the majority of the time…”

    This is something I really struggled with when I worked for my previous bank. I had been in the branch for several years, first as a teller and then a teller manager. I then moved into Operations, which still required face time since I was dealing with the branch and sometimes customers, plus time-sensitive tasks. Plus I wore many hats, so it was pretty important at that time to be in the office on a certain schedule. When I moved into a more senior role, it was really difficult to see other admin and senior people NOT having to work 8 am to 5 pm every week day and occasionally being able to work from home; I couldn’t grasp that getting great work done didn’t necessarily require a rigid schedule of face time. I felt like they were getting away with something, or weren’t as dedicated, I guess.

    I then moved on to another bank to a non-exempt position, with a very anal, rigid manager. He was pretty adamant that people had to be there in order to be a valuable employee, even though my position did not require any face time at all, really. By this time, I had changed my earlier thinking and knew that people still got their job done whether they were in the office or not. (Obviously, there are always a couple outliers for which this isn’t true.)I could have very easily done every single thing I needed to do from home or on a flex schedule.

    Now that I’m working for an awesome bank with an awesome manager, I’m convinced more than ever that for most companies and positions, people can successfully work from home on occasion or work a flex schedule.

    1. Lea*

      +1. My old Department Head opened a conversation with employees where he was seeking views on working from home policies with “I see the value, but call me old fashioned, I just think people need to be in the office to get what’s going on….” Way to motivate the parents in your team. (I’m not a parent, btw).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I might be misunderstanding, but why is that parent-specific? (Anyone working from home with young children should definitely have child care, so it doesn’t seem like that disproportionately targets parents.)

        1. Observer*

          It’s not parent specific. But, for parents it’s a much bigger issue because f the flexibility it provides, and the fact that you lose the commute time. For example we have several people who leave the office in time to greet their young children at home – but then w0rk in the late evening on things that really don’t need their personal presence. It saves them a huge amount of money and stress, it costs us very little since we have to have a telecommuting capable infrastructure anyway, it creates a very loyal workforce and it actually often increases responsiveness on projects that need many different steps done in sequence.

          People don’t mind, because the work ethic of the folks who leave early is impeccable and everyone knows it, and because they know if they needed to take advantage, it would be given to them too.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            But Lea pointed out parents specifically as people who benefit from working from home. Not to get into this conversation too far since it’s one we have here a lot, but parents aren’t the only ones who benefit from flexibility. It gets to a point where it feels dismissive when parents are held up as this special case. The rest of us have commitments and responsibilities outside of work too.

  13. Melanie*

    OP – I am curious as to why you wouldn’t just simply respond that they’re working from home and ask if they needed something. People seem to comment on things just to make small talk, it doesn’t sound like it’s something that would need to be taken to heart.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I am curious about this as well. Unless people that are commenting have indicated that they need these employees in the office for X days a week for a specific reason (which I would ask them about, because who knows, it might indeed be the case), then changing WFH policies won’t stop them from talking. They’ll just find something else to talk about.

      1. MashaKasha*

        For the record, I don’t like to WFH myself*. When I had other people (and dogs) living in the house, they’d interrupt me when I worked. Now that I’m on my own, whenever I WFH, I tend to get carried away and next thing I know it’s evening, I’m running late on my personal commitments for the evening, all because I got carried away with work and lost track of time. So I very rarely do it myself, and it’s not like I’m speaking out in defense of WFH because it’d mean a lot to me personally. It just doesn’t make sense to me to change a policy based on something not work-related like “people talk”.

        *Though I admit that WFH definitely saves on gas and commute and helps keep the roads less congested.

        1. sam*

          THIS. This is the other reason I hate working from home. I articulated way above the reasons that make me less productive (noise, annoying cat/neighbors), but this is the flip side. I’m so neurotic about being unproductive that I overcompensate. I’ll forget to eat lunch, lose track of time and end up working several hours past my normal “stopping point” when I’m in the office.

          When I’m working in the office there’s a clear start and end to my day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t answer calls/respond to emails when I’m out of the office, and as a lawyer, I’ve got plenty of long hours and weekends, but I very much like to keep my “work life” separate from my “home life”. Heck, at one point I turned down an opportunity to move to an apartment that was really close to my (former) office specifically because I liked the mental separation that I got from my commute home at the end of the day (it was only 20 minutes, so not onerous, but just enough to not feel like I was living *at* work).

          1. MashaKasha*

            I hear you about the mental separation. I, too, unwind on my commute back home.

            We had a guy at OldJob who lived five minutes from the office. Whenever we had something pop up after hours or on weekends (which happened a lot with production support), there was always “oh let’s call Bob, he lives right next to the office, he can come right in.” Poor Bob. I believe Bob eventually ended up moving to the opposite end of town.

  14. Apollo Warbucks*

    You asked

    “Am I being old-fashioned in expecting my new employees to be in the office the majority of the time, or should I not worry about the working from home since performance hasn’t suffered?”

    Yes you are being old fashioned face time isn’t everything results are much more important so no should worry about it.

    Please don’t let other departments dictate the way you run your team. The best boss I had was really flexible and accommodating more so than other managers in the company. Other departments started kicking up a fuss about what we “got away with” and their managers put pressure on my boss to restrict things we did like work from home and other perks that fitted in well with the work we did. All it did was piss the team off we really resented that our boss even suggested changing the way we worked just for political reasons if there was a good business case for the changes we’d have been on board luckily my boss was great and decided having a happy team was more important than pandering to the whims of others and pushed back hard against the complaints.

    If your team stop delivering what is needed then re-evaluate the work from home set up, but if it’s working well then I’d strongly suggest leaving it as it is, and next time someone makes a comment about your team being AWOL, be prepared with something to say

    “I spoke to them earlier they’re working from home”
    “Did you need something from them you haven’t got?”
    “Why are you asking?”
    “I find they get more done away from the office”
    “When I want your advice about managing my staff, I’ll ask for it”

    (OK so you can’t actually say the last one, but I’d sure be thinking it)

    If the quality of work or availability becomes and issue then Alison has some great advice , make sure you are clear and explicit about what you want and try to explain why.

    But think carefully about taking away this perk!

    1. Lea*


      Particularly on think careful on the impact on the e’ee’s and resentment. Most toxic workplace emotion you can create.

    2. OP*

      As Alison said, not taking it away. I’m managing expectations around using it for employees who are Brand New and still training. These are not seasoned professionals who have been with the company or who have proven themselves in the role. I’m still running training sessions with them. I think it’s important to stay away from making broad statements around my question.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        If they are currently working form home two takes a week and you tell them that only one day is all that is possible in future you are taking something away from them, and that’s your call if you decide that the best way for your team to function is only one day a week working form home that’s what your team will have to do. What jumped out at me from your letter was the other departments comments influencing your thinking and I just wanted to add my perspective on that from the employees point of view.

        If scheduling training sessions is problematic then that seems like a very good reason to have them come into the office more.

      2. einahpets*

        Yes, but as I mentioned above, you need to acknowledge that it was also probably something you should have considered prior to giving them WFH approval in the first place. Your comments that I’ve read so far haven’t acknowledged that ‘error’.

        It may also be a matter of creating more definitive team-wide guidelines for WFH. So that these employees don’t feel like you are targeting them for any particular reason.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I don’t think the OP needs to acknowledge that to the team, if the current set up isn’t wokeing this entirely their choice to change it.

          1. einahpets*

            OK sure. I guess the OP doesn’t ‘need’ to acknowledge that. But it might help the message, because I don’t think the employees technically have done anything wrong up to this point, either, and this is going to come off as a punishment to the employees, in my opinion, otherwise. In policies such as this, it is the manager’s discretion to approve it and it sounds like the employees didn’t just start working from home without the OP’s approval. And from the original letter, it doesn’t sound like it is affecting performance or work product.

            How I would frame it: “I’ve been evaluating how the WFH policy best fits our department group and think I need to better define my expectations of how we utilize it. This is totally something I should have covered when you first asked to WFH, so don’t feel as if any of what I am about to say is a reflection on you. Historically… ” And then lay out some of the reasoning, if the OP still thinks it is best to limit to 1 day a week. Also, before having this conversation, I’d consider whether it made sense to also ask everyone to schedule the date in advance, and I’d also be prepared to talk about how there may be cases where the employee will still need to come in that day. Etc.

            But in general I just would rather be the manager I would want to have — one who acknowledges my own mistakes. And to me, having some internal expectation that nobody would take more than 1 day because nobody ever has IS kind of a mistake to me.

  15. Gwen Soul*

    I don’t mind it every now and then. And even admit to using it when I know I have a light day and need a break, but I don’t think it is the great perk for company a lot of people seem to think it is. It seems like a lot of areas are doing it as a cool thing to do, or a cost saver of not needing to have space for people without seeing if it really works for everyone.

    I had to have a talk with my direct on her WAH usage. For me it came down to the fact that she is an admin and I felt it was more important for her to be in the office for the type of admin duties that come up (copy machine down, need documents printed for a meeting, etc). She was really unhappy about it and then asked a few weeks later if she could WAH two days a week because she just performed mentally better that way.

    I have also found that a lot of people over estimate how effective they are when they work from home. We have had a handful of people do excellent with it in my department, but mostly I have found that even if a person is meeting their goals, it is much more frustrating trying to connect with them for quick questions or get them up to date on new processes. I also have friends who will straight out say they are not as productive, but see their one day a week as a nice break from the office and a chance to get other stuff done around their house. I have even seen other departments where WAH one day a week is the norm require everyone to come in during busy times, which leads me to believe that they see an increase in productivity when everyone is in the office.

    1. Former Retail Manager*


      I now have the ability to work at home, but I rarely use it. I will readily admit that I can only be productive at home when working on certain types of assignments/projects. I too agree that many people overestimate their productivity when working from home.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I rarely do, because I sat at home for a year when I was unemployed and my house soon started to feel like a prison. I like coming into the office (though I’d like it more if I didn’t have to drive through an industrial area full of big trucks to get there). It’s nice to finally have a job I can actually DO from home, though–in fact, probably 95% of it is remote. And now I have better internet, so it’s easier overall anyway.

  16. Ella*

    I think Alison’s comments on why WAH is not appropriate 2+ times a week makes sense. However, OP please think about what was described in your interviews. Some people may be willing to take a job with less pay, for example, for the ability work at home 40% of the time.

  17. Justcourt*

    From the OP’s letter it is not clear if her employees were told WFH is typically allowed once a week. While it’s not necessarily unreasonable to limit WFH to one day a week, it’s unreasonable to expect the employees to follow that policy if they were never told.

    Also, the OP’s letter implies, but doesn’t make clear, that the employees are requesting WFH. If that’s the case, the OP should explain and enforce the policy.

  18. Lea*

    I’m sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree with Alison. New employees may have chosen your workplace because it was flexible and these options were available (eg. I have worked in government and lots of people chose it because it was flexible – and our best employees were generally working parents because they were so grateful to have a job that took their need for flexibility seriously, they were super duper dedicated).

    I HATE presentee-ism and it sounds like that’s what you want to encourage in your employees. It seems to be that in America that there are so little employment rights that managers feel employees should be super duper grateful to the point of deference when these benefits are offered. I mean, don’t get me wrong, people are really grateful for flexibility in other countries, but it’s more the norm, and it doens’t cause such a flap.

    Alison’s point on ;culture; and being arond to pick it up is valid, but it doesn;t sound from your info like their performance re: ability to collaborate etc has gone down at all. My colleagues who work from home just conference call when they need to meet with team memebrs.

    If they’re meeting what they need to and they have no performance issues, there’s no issue, this is exactly where workplaces are moving in any regard given we’re all available 24/7 by technology.

    Back up your good employees and enable them to continue to shine! Don’t demotivate them!

  19. LOLwut*

    OP, be the kind of boss people want to work for. If you’re going to take away perks available to others “just because”, or because people are talking, there’s a good chance your employees will remember that. If you have good people, you can be sure they have options.

  20. NinaK*

    I think we recently commented on a letter from a person who got the hairy eyeball from coworkers because she routinely left work on time? If I remember correctly, people made comments like “must be nice to be able to leave at 5pm!” Some commenters suggested the LW toss back “It is! If you want to leave at 5pm I would happy to help you with your time management skills” or something along those lines ….

    So, LW, if the team is performing well and the situation works for all of you except the coworkers who comment that your team is not present, why not respond with “Yes, they are WAH today. Our team is thriving. If you would like, I can teach you/your team how to be more productive so you can enjoy this benefit as well”

    As someone up the thread mentioned …. some people will always find something to complain about.

    Good luck!

  21. Dasha*

    Wow, this one really hits close to home for me (or hits close to work from home for me?). OP, I think you should really read all the other comments here and if you do choose to go with a stricter work from home policy, don’t blindside them. I recently asked to work from home once a week (the person in the role before me was 100% remote, my boss works remote a lot, we have several other remote workers, I was told I could work from home from by the HR rep when she called me about the job when I first started, I have only a laptop not a desktop, etc, etc) but in the end my boss said no, he wanted me in the office and I could only work from home once in a blue moon which was a shock to me given the other facts. It kind of stressed me out to be honest, I felt dumb for asking and like I had done something wrong. Also, I was probably doing more work from home since there were a lot less distractions. I was also working longer since I didn’t have to get all dressed up, drive in, pack my lunch, etc. To be clear, your employees aren’t doing anything wrong, you haven’t told them otherwise so please treat it them accordingly. I think kindness is key here and don’t go about it like they’re in the wrong, just that there has been a change in policy- I think it will really help your relationships with them.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      To me, this is more on the HR rep for promising you WFH before getting confirmation from the manager.

      1. Dasha*

        True, but… I’m not sure how to explain it. I was maybe surprised, given all the facts and then I was like well, what else am I doing that my manager doesn’t like? It made me kind of paranoid. Just my 2 cents- I think the OP should consider my experience as it could be similar to that of her employees if she delivers the new policy.

  22. Sunshine Brite*

    I love my WFH policy. It’s up to the employee if their role qualifies if they want to or not. Then there’s a 6 month probation period where you have to go to an office, which was good to get used to a couple of the available offices. I don’t expect my colleagues to not schedule meetings with me certain days, etc and most people leave their schedules open and make any meeting work. I usually work at least 2.5 days at home, more if I can. Love it! I’m an early riser so I’m often ‘in the office’ by 6 and done early which is fine in my role and makes me more productive.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      Oh, a probation period is good and you seem to have a central office which is good. It was better for the next group who worked together with some supervisors present. My group was pretty much alone in our office which didn’t have us learning from supervisors or seasoned staff at all.

  23. Interplanet Janet*

    Agree with AAM’s response. OP, the key is in your second sentence: “Our company has a very lenient work from home policy – essentially, if you meet your goals and are available for important meetings, you’re able to work from home with manager’s approval.”

    With manager’s approval – and they need to understand that you approve WFH dates, they cannot just take them.

    Good luck!

    1. Mephyle*

      They need to understand that you approve WFH dates, they cannot just take them.

      I was wondering about this. I didn’t see OP say whether they were ever explicitly told that their manager had to approve WFH days – did I miss it?

      If they were told this, and OP has been approving them, then it would be very strange that OP is wondering how to cut down on WFH – the answer is to stop approving so many WFH days.

      If they have never been told, then I’m not sure how they could be expected to know. Especially if they have been taking their two days a week and no one has ever indicated to them that it is a problem.

  24. Cristina in England*

    This really rubbed me the wrong way:
    “And entry-level or not, some people are literal and if the company says “you can work from home with your manager’s approval,” they’re going to think that’s the policy, period, without factoring in cultural cues about how people actually use the policy. So if you want them to do something differently, you need to tell them.”

    Why bash on literal people? Worded like this, it seems like “with your manager’s approval” is something that won’t be that hard to get. And yes, I am a very literal person with some impatience towards “cultural cues”. It is simply irritating to have a disconnect between a policy as written and the policy in practice, and I don’t think that is the faulty perception of a literal person, it is just bad practice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not bashing literal people. I mean exactly what that sentence (literally!) says: you can’t expect everyone to pick up on cues around them; you need to give clear instruction.

    2. jmkenrick*

      I’m also someone who tends to take things at face value, but I’m not sure how what Alison said there is “bashing” – seemed pretty straightforward to me.

    3. Cristina in England*

      I accept that that was not the intention, it just felt like a swipe towards people who can’t infer cultural cues easily, or who think that the world would be a easier place to navigate if it were more literal. I appreciate that the world being more literal would mean less work for advice columnists! ;-)

  25. Jen*

    We had a very lenient WFH policy, and my manager was very cool about it. However, recently the boss’ boss said no more. We were all getting our work done and had measurable better productivity. So for the sake of face time (for a 100% non-collaborative job), or work has suffered and the team has become incredibly demoralized.

    Why yes, we are all putting out resumes and agreeing to be references for each other, how’d you guess? :-)

  26. jmkenrick*

    Honestly, I’m surprised at the level of controversy this post is generating.

    I worked for several years at a company that was very flexible with letting people WFH occasionally (or come in early/leave early, or what-have-you). It was a great perk.

    But these flexible polices that treat employees like grown-ups mean that employees need to monitor their own behavior and make sure they’re meeting the needs of the job and the company. I’m really confused by the allegations that this is some sort of ‘bait and switch’. There are plenty of behaviors (water-cooler chat, a celebratory lunch, grabbing a complimentary snack at a HH, occasionally checking facebook/blogs, asking to extend a deadline) that are absolutely fine in moderation, but would be problematic in excess. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the company needs to lay out specific rules for how all those should be used.

    Some of these attacks on OP (and her company) imply that unless the company is willing to make an “official rule” about exactly how much WFH town is allowed, OP should not exercise any judgment. This seems really excessive and like a good way to encourage companies to treat employees like children.

    To be frank, it sort of sounds like an argument that, unless the company is willing to block Facebook, a manager has no right to be upset if an employee works all day with a Facebook tab open.

    Additionally – of course appearances matter. These are entry-level employees who may not realize that anyone has noticed their absences. Wouldn’t they want to know what impression they might be (inadvertently) giving other departments? Making those impressions and forming a network are crucial in building your career. YES, of course some people put way too much emphasis on superficial measures of productiveness, but it’s not an either/or. You can attempt to make a good impression without becoming slave to facetime-for-the-sake-of-facetime.

    It sounds like OP wants the employees to be able to take advantage of the flexibility her company offers, but she needs them to establish themselves a little first. She’s thinking through the issue and wrote in to get some feedback on whether she’s a) being reasonable and b) how to handle it. I really don’t see anything wrong with that.

    1. Lora*

      I don’t think anyone is attacking the OP for asking. Just the rationale behind doing so, in entirety.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Several people have stated that she’s trying to remove a perk, which is really not what I’m seeing from her initial letter (or her subsequent comments) at all.

            1. Lora*

              Op has not clairifed if employees started job with perk or have used this pattern throughout woeking. If they have they will resent losing a day.

    2. OP*

      Thank you jmkenrick – you have beautifully articulated my struggle with the issue, and the way that I am working on the issue in a way that is both fair and reasonable. +1 for sure!

      1. Lora*

        Did he? His rationale is that it’s important for “need to monitor their own behavior and make sure they’re meeting the needs of the job and the company”. You said they are.

          1. Lora*

            No, th op mentions the employees wfh making shceduling training hard – but says their performace is already really good. Why is further trsining needed? And also says its hard for them to “learn how to behave in an office” which just sounds like bums on seats to monitor them.

                1. Lora*

                  Yes, but that’s when you revisit the policy – not when it ‘feels wrong’ to you. I notice no reply option this time Alison!

                2. Lra*

                  Yes, but that’s when you revisit the policy – not when it ‘feels wrong’ to you. I notice no reply option this time Alison!

  27. Mousemom*

    In my experience with WFH, the company seemed to have a gender bias. No matter what the job entailed, if a male employee and a female employee asked to WFH and both did the same job, the male was (a) more likely to be approved for it and (b) less likely to receive snark from co-workers. Whether the manager was male or female also seemed to make a difference; male managers were more likely to get approval for their teams to WFH and less likely to be second-guessed. Is there any possibility that this could be contributing to the situation?

  28. LeRainDrop*

    “My situation is this – both new employees have been utilizing the working from home option quite frequently, generally two days per week. . . . Am I being old-fashioned in expecting my new employees to be in the office the majority of the time, or should I not worry about the working from home since performance hasn’t suffered?”

    How many days per week do they work total? Assuming five, then working from home two days a week, and working from the office the other three days a week, already amounts to being in the office the MAJORITY of the time.

  29. Vicki*

    Dear OP – Please please rethink this.

    Your staff is meeting their goals. They are getting their work done. They are responsive. They are not mis-using the company policy. And they are NOT “utilizing the working from home option quite frequently”. Two days a week is not “quite frequently”, especially if the policy is ” if you meet your goals and are available for important meetings, you’re able to work from home with manager’s approval.”

    If people near you comment, you should support your staff by saying “Alexandra and Fergus work from home on Tuesday and Thursday”. You might want to probe, e.g. is Fergus missing a meeting? Or is the person who is commenting a nosy busybody?

    If it’s the former, you need to work this out with Fergus. If it’s the latter you need to add “with my approval” and then ignore the comments.

    You should also set things up with Alexandra and Fergus to make sure that their WFH days are standardized, But please don’t be “that manager” who believes that the only way employees can work is if she sees “butts in chairs”.

  30. Tuesday*

    If I took a job with an open remote working policy, and then found out once I’d started that, in practice, the policy was really just a one-day-a-week option, I’d be pretty disappointed.

    Two days a week doesn’t even seem like a lot. That means they’re still in the office the majority of the time. And they’re performing well. It sounds like they’re doing everything they should, well within the company’s policies. They’ve proven they’re responsible, but apparently that doesn’t matter.

    This is good to know, though, as I suspect it happens a lot with companies that offer benefits like remote working. As a job seeker, I might be inclined to take a job with a bad commute if I thought I’d be allowed to work at home most of the time. The written policy vs. the policy in practice would be a good thing to clear up with a potential future manager before accepting a job offer.

  31. Caffeinated*

    If I was a new employee, I wouldn’t mind at all if my manager requested me to cut back back on WFH during the initial months for training sessions, to get a feel for the place etc.

    What I would be worried/annoyed about is if I signed up for the job partly because I was told it was WFH friendly and ended up with a manager whose preferred style is face time, all the time. This seems like OP’s style, I’m guessing, and I definitely see the merits of a traditional in-office workday. BUT OP is annoyed that Joe and Jane are WFH twice a week while OP takes that option “once every week or so.” So if OP decides that they’re going to start going into the office everyday…will they become annoyed at any and all WFH days by Jane and Joe?

  32. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    I would advise the OP that instead of taking away WFH privileges, she should do what she can to improve her team’s WFH visibility to the rest of the company.

    I work from home at least four days a week. I am ALWAYS available via instant message, email, or phone. My hours are clearly stated for all to see. My calendar is public. I use google hangouts multiple times a day to video chat with my colleagues.

    I am just as *there* as anybody physically sitting in the office. Unless somebody wanted to hug me (ugh!) I can’t think of a single communication that couldn’t take place while I am WFH. As far as I’m concerned, WFH is no different than working locally.

    Why not empower your team’s visibility in their current environment instead of taking away their freedom? That’s what makes a good boss, IMO.

  33. Dean Jackson*

    – they’re doing great work, and getting it all done.
    – they’re working at home half the time.
    – they’re doing about half the work at home; they’re not slacking!

    If their manager cut the work from home benefit back via a “policy clarification”, that’s going to feel (to the team) like their benefits are being cut, and possibly benefits they value quite a bit. The only way for that to go well is if you have extremely clear reasons for the change. And you don’t, except “other teams are griping my team isn’t there.”

    It’s one of the manager’s jobs to DEFEND THEIR TEAM. And you’re not doing that; you’re allowing expectations of a team off to the side to define how your team should work.

    It’s okay to kill work from home if the executive management is likely to cut your headcount due to it. (You look lazy, you get less future resources; that’s bad, and a good reason to stop folks from working from home in the short run.)

    It’s okay to kill work from home if you need more collaboration or intra-team communication, and you can communicate the need for it.

    It’s bad to kill work from home if the role relies on heads-down (quiet & focused) work. Offices are noisy. WFH can be in quiet, controlled spaces.

    It’s also bad to kill work from home if the team believes it’s a benefit, and likes the benefit, and you’re not replacing it with some equally-valued benefit.

    But mostly? You haven’t said why they want to work from home, so it’s hard to fix a situation you don’t (yet!) understand. :-)

    1. Dean Jackson*

      Sounds like one clarification is that WFH is making scheduling training harder.

      That seems odd, as well. Schedule the training at least a day in advance. If someone wants to WFH for a reason, they normally need to announce the WFH in advance to be guaranteed the opportunity. If they keep scheduling things at home, then they’re not working at home, and it should be treated as “time off”, not a work-from-home sort of arrangement?

  34. Jen*

    Honestly, this is weird. OP said “While both are *meeting their goals* and are *very responsive* when working from home, I still feel that they should be in the office more than they currently are. However, since *both are doing well*, I’m not sure how to frame this for them, especially if I were to reject a request to work from home. ” (emphasis added)

    What more do you expect from your employees? What are you paying them for? Are you paying them to meet their goals and be responsive? Because they are doing that! You admitted that they ARE doing well. It doesn’t sound like their work is suffering? Are you worried that their future work might suffer somehow? I can’t really understand the reasoning behind not wanting them to work from home other than the old “you have to be chained to your desk for 8 hours a day so I know I’m getting the time out of you that I paid you for” attitude. Did it occur to you that they might be doing so well *because* they are working from home? Many people are more productive, better focused, and happier (which makes for a better employee) when they can work from home. It also saves commute time, gas money, wear on the car, etc. All of these things are improving their lives as human beings and there’s nothing wrong with allowing your employees a better quality of life if it’s not hurting their work in any way. What would taking this away from them accomplish? I keep hearing the OP mention things like “looking weak” or other people’s perceptions or mumble things about training and hypothetical meetings and “learning about workplace culture”. If you are honestly having a hard time scheduling meetings that’s an okay reason, but it’s just as easy to say “if there is a meeting scheduled you are expected to come to the office even if that’s normally a day you’d be at home” or something. I’m sorry but I don’t buy these reasons. I think the OP needs to have some serious reflection about why he/she feels so strongly about taking away working from home time just for the sake of it.

  35. Jadelyn Cinn*

    I understand the situation perfectly. Though they are meeting their goals, they may be ‘goofing off’ during business hours. In addition, if they were working in the office, they could be ‘exceeding’ their goals rather than just meeting them.

    I am in a similar situation. I set up a rule that work from home is permissible, but everyone has to have a clear objective and deliverable that they provide at the end of the day, even if it is a report of activities done. In my work place we have peak times and down times. I find that during down times, people want to work from home quite often. I rather they come into the office, as there is no clear deliverable for them to deliver. I have to assign them tasks such as ‘read up on X’. At times, I will ask if they have any questions on what they read, and 100% of the time, I receive a ‘No’.

    I really want to establish a policy that limits working from home once per week. The issue with this however is that everyone will then start working from home once a week. With a team of 20 people, cannot afford this to happen.

  36. The Data Don't Lie*

    People goof off during business hours at work ALL THE TIME. If you think that simply having people in the office rather than working from home is going to keep them from goofing off (especially during down times), you are sorely mistaken.

    I also take issue with your expectation that your employees “exceed their goals”. If you want them to do more, set higher goals. Don’t set goals and then expect your employees to exceed them, and penalize them (e.g.taking away work from home privileges) if they don’t do so. That’s very poor communication of expectations, and poor management. If I were meeting all my goals all year and then my manager told me in my yearly review that I probably could have exceeded them if only I had worked from home less, I would be extremely frustrated.

    1. Jadelyn Cinn*

      8 hours goof off is different from a couple of hours goofing off. I do believe that certain individuals (not ALL), are more productive in the office. With the manager and team leads around, and your internet activity tracked, you tend to behave better.

      I cringe when I get an email that school is closed so I am going to stay at home today. Then after work, I see a lot of facebook/twitter/Instagram activity where the employee is posting games that they are doing with their kids. One employee posted a lego domino video during business hours.

      If I confronted the employee – they could easily state that it was done a different day or it was someone else at home that posted it.

      Working from home should be a privilege and treated as such. I even feel I am more productive at home. This is because when I am at work, I get bombarded with meetings and pulled into so many discussions. So when I have a deadline, I actually work at home. I tend to work longer hours at home.

      I will never bring up working from home in an employee’s appraisal. It is all about the work done. I will bring up if I know they are capable of doing more, but they are just coasting by – doing the minimum. This will always limit the potential for advancement, rewards or bonuses. I lead by example. I am a very hard worker, and I expect that of my team.

      If work that should take you a few hours takes you a couple of days, and you are working from home on one day or both days, it is a red flag. It either screams incompetency or you are simply not working at home. The deliverable may have been due in 2 days, but getting it to me a day earlier to have additional time to review goes a long way.

      1. The Data Don't Lie*

        *Being employed* is a privilege and should be treated as such. However, I think it’s time we moved into the 21st century and realized that working from home can be just as efficient and productive as working at an office–in some cases even more so. If you really have so little trust in your employees that you think they would claim they were working from home and then instead play with dominos and goof off for 8 hours straight, you should probably hire better employees. I would not want to work for someone who treated me like a child that needed to constantly monitored so I would “behave better”, and believed I would straight-up lie about working an 8-hour day and spend the whole day playing instead (and who monitored my social media for evidence that I wasn’t working hard enough on work from home days). Nor would I employ someone if those things were the case with them. Those things have nothing to do with working from home and everything to do with a person’s integrity and honesty and work ethic. Please don’t blame the entire concept of working from home for the fact that dishonest people can take advantage of it to evade work.

        1. Jadelyn Cinn*

          LOL – no one is monitoring their social media. I am actually not connected to any of my team members. Their manager brought it to my attention. I agree with what you said. It is about trust. Incidents such as these, make me loose trust. There are those who are dishonest and those that are truly productive when they work from home. As a result, we say ‘yes’ to some employees to work from home and ‘no’ to others. This has brought up complaints of unfairness, which I readily admit is true.
          I would really like to come up with a policy that builds trust and ensures all team members are treated equally, to the extent possible. I believe assigning a clear deliverable to be delivered at the end of the day works. The issue is during down time.

          I believe there is a reason for the increased frequency that these employees work from home (at least 2-3 times per week) during down time.

          I should also mention that I work in an atmosphere where we bill clients for work done on an hourly basis.

          1. The Data Don't Lie*

            What do people do at the office during downtime if they have nothing they can do at home? Maybe they are just frustrated that they have to go into the office and “kill time” with somewhat meaningless-seeming tasks and that’s why they request to work from home. Is there any way you can create useful work that can be done during downtime (maybe even at home), with deliverables?

  37. Mark*

    I think its more a manger problem not an employees.
    Read the comment: “Am I being old-fashioned”. So maybe its is a time to move forward and adapt to the new things? Like it or not, biut WAH is a future. So get on board and accept that you are the part of the problems, not the employees.

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