company agreed I could telecommute — and then changed their mind once I started the job

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my new job for just over a month. The job offer was for telecommuting half of the time every month. The home office is 36 miles a day roundtrip.

The day I started, I was introduced to my new boss, because the one who hired me had been fired. He decided I was going to strictly work in the office for a period of time that we agreed on, and he agreed to reconsider in a few months. I haven’t worked full-time in an office in years. I didn’t count on driving all these miles every day only to sit in traffic and then under fluorescent lights in a cubicle. My husband is disabled and that is the biggest reason I needed to be home sometimes.

Today he informed the team that the higher-ups decided no one gets to work at home, ever. There will be no revisiting the situation. He never discussed it with me personally. He did agree to be fair and, if you are sick or need to work at home for some other reason for a day, that might be allowed. (If I’m sick, I’m sick–I’m not working!)

The other members of my team consist of two coworkers who live close by the office and another two who live an hour away and a state away. The one who lives an hour away gets to work at home most of the time; the one out-of-state works at home all the time she is not off-site. The ones who live close by had been doing the two-on, two-off, but now have to come to the office every day when not traveling. I do not know what their arrangements were when they started, but my schedule was offered to me at the time of my interview.

I don’t have the original agreement about telecommuting in writing. My offer letter just states salary and PTO/benefits. It was discussed during my interview, but since the manager who hired me was fired before I got there, I don’t have anything.

I enjoy the job and like my boss and coworkers, but should I push the issue or wait it out since I am new? I turned down another job making $20 more an hour for this one because I would get to telecommute half the time. It probably is legal but it certainly doesn’t seem fair.

It’s legal, unless you had a signed contract committing them to the telecommuting arrangement. But no, it’s not fair or right.

The tricky thing about negotiating stuff like this as part of your offer is that the employer nearly always retains the ability to change it in the future. Even if the manager who interviewed you was still there, this potentially still could have happened — she could have changed her mind, a no-telecommuting edict could have come from above, etc. It could have happened on your first day or months down the road.

That said, it’s much less likely to happen when you’re able to point to a written agreement. They still can change it, but it at least lowers the risk of miscommunication on either side, someone forgetting a detail that was agreed to, or a manager leaving the company and leaving behind no record of what she committed to.

As for what to do now, I’d say this to your manager: “Jane and I specifically negotiated a telecommuting arrangement before I accepted the offer. I turned down other offers to take this job, and that agreement was a key piece of why I accepted this one. I understand that the company is changing the way it approaches telecommuting, but since this was a key part of my offer, I’m hoping we can figure out a way to make this work.”

How he responds will tell you a lot. At a minimum, a decent manager (and decent person) will be empathetic about your situation, see that this is horrid, explain to you where the company is coming from, and want to explore whether some kind of compromise or accommodation is possible, even if he can’t do exactly what the previous manager promised. And frankly, if they absolutely can’t be flexible on this, he should be willing to offer you severance if you decide this won’t work, since you turned down other offers for something they turned out not to be able to deliver.

If he seems unmoved and tells you to take it or leave it, well, there’s your answer — about him, and about what the job now is. At that point you’d need to decide if you want the job under these new conditions.

But yes, it’s unfair. Companies do need to retain the right to change business practices that aren’t working for them, but they also need to be thoughtful and ethical about how to handle people who come in right at the point of that transition so that they don’t bait and switch them.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. Emac*

    I’m not sure if I”m reading it correctly, but it seems the OP is saying that two people on her team are still able to work from home because they live far away. Is that right? If that’s true, does that change how she should approach her boss?

    1. LisaLee*

      I don’t think it does. For one, I don’t really think “Well Linda gets it, so I should too” is a very compelling argument, and what Linda does doesn’t actually affect the OP’s situation. Even if no one else telecommuted, she would still have a problem here. Secondly, we have no idea what’s up with the people living further away. They might have totally different roles that make telecommuting easier, the company might be looking to relocate them, or they might be getting laid off in the coming weeks. Who knows.

      1. Mike C.*

        It can be a compelling argument when the company policy is “no one does it every because the sky would fall down otherwise”. They are working from home, and the sky is still above us, so their policy is clearly flawed. \

        Really, businesses like this need to stop pulling “zero-tolerance” policies for things that simply don’t need them. I know it can be hard to actually think about and evaluate things but it’s much better in the long term.

        1. LisaLee*

          I guess I feel like that’s good in theory, but no manager who is convinced that telecommuting sucks is going to be swayed by the “well SOME people are doing it” argument. We don’t actually know that those people are performing their jobs well–for all the OP knows, they’re the reason the telecommuting policy was changed.

            1. LisaLee*

              It sounds to me like this was a company wide change that is affecting everyone but the two people who live further away, not just the OP. Those people might also be ending telecommuting soon; the OP doesn’t say that they’re allowed to continue doing so indefinitely.

            2. Leatherwings.*

              Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I don’t think we know that for sure. A couple of others are still telecommuting, but those could be temporary arrangements or something. Not that that justifies it, but we don’t know for sure that OP is the only one being held to the new policy.

              1. neverjaunty*

                It occurs to me that the only one insisting on this new policy is the OP’s immediate boss. I wonder if the higher-ups have in fact decided “no telecommuting ever”, especially since half-time telecommuting was part of her employment agreement.

                1. whatthewhat*

                  Maybe the one who hired her (the one who got fired) lied to her about her being able to work from home, in order to get her to accept the job.

                2. Jeanne*

                  I was wondering that too. Is new boss telling the truth or lying about the policy? It might be worth finding out.

          1. Mike C.*

            The point in my statement isn’t to sway them (just yet), it’s to point out that they have no business justification for doing so. Once you eliminate that, they must either treat you like an adult and come up with a reasonable justification or rescind the bad policy or they’re going to treat you like a child and say, “well we’re doing it because I said so”.

        2. Unanimously Anonymous*

          My company also has a blanket no-telecommuting-ever policy…

          * except for call-center staff – sending several hundred CSRs home saves a ton of $ in office-space expense…
          * except for Managers and above – while they’re not allowed to regularly telecommute, their laptops and company issued IPhones give them the ability to perform all their tasks remotely if they have to stay home with a sick kid, etc…
          * and except for certain staffers who live out of state and are considered sufficiently valuable to be retained despite having to work remotely. At one point there was an IT guy who telecommuted from Costa Rica!

          Our company makes no pretense of fairness or even honesty in this policy’s selective application. My own department has an analyst who’s worked remotely for several years (her husband’s active duty military and was stationed first in Virginia & now in Hawaii). She’s vital to our department – she worked for the Marzipan Samovar division before its back office ops were crammed together with my Chocolate Teapots division. We now have to handle product issues for both divisions, and she’s the only one in our department who knows about Marzipan Samovar products and procedures. She also handles vast workloads that would choke a rhinoceros, so it’s a good thing she’s allowed to telecommute.

          What’s galling to the rest of us is the company’s continued official insistence that telecommuting “just isn’t a technological fit” for departments outside of the call center. I regularly commute with folks who work in organizations for which occasional and even full time telecommuting has been taken for granted for a decade or more – when I tell them about our top dogs’ party line for not allowing it, their first response (after they stop laughing) is “your management’s flat-out lying to you.”

          1. Mike C.*

            Yeah, I really hate it when leadership decides to insult everyone’s intelligence target than come up with a real reason.

            1. Unanimously Anonymous*

              True enough, Mike. But look at it from their standpoint. “Not technically feasible” just kinda sounds better than “our management culture is stuck in 1958 and we just can’t give up the pleasure of lording it over a horde of physically-present underlings.”

      2. harryv*

        Right. And you don’t want to be that employee that caused everyone to lose the fringe benefit because you complained…

        1. Reader*

          It’s not a fringe benefit. It was part of my job offer AND the reason I turned down a more lucrative job. Btw, that one did not involve remote work but it was a lot more money.

    2. Biff*

      I would be wary of changing the approach, as it may simply be that these employees negotiated a few extra weeks of their old schedule while they found alternative arrangements for their dog/kids/whatever. They may have also been recalled.

    3. Vicki*

      When Marissa Mayer come to Yaho! and shut down the work from home options, she also required people who lived hundreds of miles (or a state)away from an office to come into the office, move, or quit.

      Butts-in-chairs draconian decisions are nasty and short-sighted.

  2. Leatherwings.*

    Oy, I’m so sorry OP. This sucks. The fact that they introduced you to a new manager on Day 1 without a heads up is also really crappy. I do hope you’re able to speak with your manager as soon as possible, definitely don’t wait just because you’re new.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      For sure. I was once interviewing for a job and they threw me a new manager curveball right before I accepted the offer; one conversation with her was enough for me to decline.

      Who you work for is really, really important.

      1. Reader*

        Let me Just state I really really like my boss and think he is trying to be as fair as possible, but he’s new, too.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Which is great, but they shouldn’t have been all “Surprise! Meet your new manager!” on the first day.

        2. Leatherwings*

          That’s great, I’m geniunely happy to hear that! I still think they should’ve told you though.

          1. Leatherwings*

            Eh, I think that’s something we need to take OPs word on. She’s the one with the best read of the situation.

  3. Biff*

    I’m noticing a couple of details.

    The OP says she needs to work from home to help her disabled husband. If I were her manager, my eyebrows would go up at that. Does that mean she is helping him at lunch? Or does that mean she’s at his beck and call most of the day, working around his schedule. If I felt work was taking, or going to take a backseat to caregiving as a regular thing, I can understand the manager’s desire to pull the work from home aspect.

    However, since several other employees are still telecommuting, I wonder if they have also been recalled, but have asked for some time to set up arrangements, and will return to the office at a pre-determined time. It could merely be an illusion that those folks are getting preferential treatment.

    Regardless of what is actually going on, my advice to the OP is this — contact the job you turned down and tell them that the deal with the job you took has fallen through. Are they still interested? If so, bail.

    1. sunny-dee*

      My father-in-law had a liver transplant last summer. Someone had to be with him literally every second of the day for the first 30 days — I think my mother-in-law didn’t even close the door to the bathroom. The reason was the anti-rejection drugs — if they weren’t working, his body would reject the liver and he could die within a very few minutes. So someone had to be able to hear him fall and call an ambulance immediately. Any delay, even a 15 minute trip to a gas station, equaled death. However, he actually didn’t require any care while she was there; healthwise, he was better than he’d been in years. It was just that “just in case” scenario.

      Disabled could mean round-the-clock care, or it could just mean that it’s easier for him if she makes his lunch and gets his medications ready or feels like he has some company.

      1. Reader*

        I just need to be there. He is on medications that could have serious side effects. I am half an hour away at the office so I could get there soon enough, but that’s not the point. He is ambulatory so no, there is no time off for caring for him.

        1. Biff*

          That may be relevant then, to your new manager to know.

          I still think you should call the other offer and see if maybe they are still looking.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yes, this kind of thing varies a great deal. My father had a similar situation–he didn’t need round-the-clock care, he didn’t really need ‘care’ at all, but he did need someone to be around in case he had a bad medication response. He needed someone with him in the house at all times; he didn’t need someone paying attention to him at all times (or really, hardly at all).

        Similar to things like “working from home when your kids have a snow day.” You’re not going to be working much if it’s a toddler’s snow day home from day care/preschool, but with a nine-year-old who can entertain themselves all day with a 3DS and Netflix? Totally different situation.

    2. vanBOOM*

      Yeah, we don’t know the details about the nature of the husband’s disability or the caregiving role of the OP, but telecommuting could absolutely be a mutually-beneficial scenario in situations ranging from the husband needing assistance with taking medication and using the restroom (relatively minor breaks from the work flow) to the OP simply being present when medical emergencies arise (thus reducing the amount of time spent away from work to address them, as the commute to and from the physical workplace would lengthen the OP’s absence as opposed to the commute from home to a medical center and back). Also, if some additional help in the form of nurses, etc., is being provided at least some of the time, being able to keep tabs on everyone entering and leaving the home (another minor, zero-effort break) provides a great deal of peace of mind.

    3. azvlr*

      I am a caregiver for my SO. He has medical providers come to our home on a regular basis. Access to our building and our parking situation is tricky, so I need to be there to let them in. It takes 5 minutes on either end.

      It doesn’t impact my work, except in the positive. When I am not splitting my focus between worrying about him and my work, I am way more productive.

  4. Product Person*

    One thing that might help with your negotiation is if you could contact the other company that gave you an offer to see if they’re still looking. If so, perhaps you could explain that you had declined their offer due to what seemed like an extraordinary opportunity that seemed too good to pass, but now you realize is no longer attractive. If their offer is still on the table, perhaps you could use that as leverage to negotiate with your new manager.

    (Worse case scenario, if indeed you can’t telecommute anymore, at least the $20 more per hour in the other job would help reduce the sting.)

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      Call the other company TODAY. Take the offer if it is still available. Give notice tomorrow. If the offer is no longer available, immediately go into job search mode. Once you get an offer, give your notice and don’t look back. If your current employer backtracks and offers telecommuting in order to retain you, decline their offer. Your current employer already showed you where their ethical compass points, and it isn’t in a direction where you can be comfortable.

      1. baseballfan*

        Wow, this seems like a very extreme reaction to losing a fringe benefit. I don’t see anything wrong with exploring possible options with the other job, if it seems overall better with the current environment, but requiring someone to work in the office isn’t a decline of ethical compass.

        1. Leatherwings*

          It’s more than just losing a fringe benefit though, it’s reneging on an agreement.

          I don’t think OP should up and quit over this unless they’re able to, but it’s more than just revoking a perk too.

        2. Temperance*

          $20/hr + better working conditions? That’s $1600 more each month, which is not insignificant. Additionally, they pulled a serious bait-and-switch, which would also impact my trust in the company.

          1. Brogrammer*

            Not insignificant at all! In fact, OP could probably hire someone to stay with her husband while she’s at work for less than $20/hr.

        3. neverjaunty*

          “Fringe benefit”?

          Free baseball tickets or covered parking are fringe benefits. Telecommuting half the time is not a fringe benefit.

          1. baseballfan*

            I see some arguments of semantics going on here. Above, covered parking was mentioned as a fringe benefit. What’s the argued difference between a fringe benefit and a “negotiated condition of accepting the job?”

            I once had a job that had paid parking. At some point, due to a corporate merger, that benefit was taken away. Was that a fringe benefit or a negotiated condition, and should I have quit over it? (For the record, quitting was never considered).

            Reasonable minds can differ on this, but based on some of the comments, telecommuting part time when your office is 18 miles away is indeed a fringe benefit. I telecommute one day a week, all of my team does, and that’s exactly what I consider it.

            1. Leatherwings*

              There’s no clear brightline that’s going to satisfy you here, but telecommuting 1/5th of the time is significantly different than doing it 1/2 of the time, yes?

              People can argue all day over the definitions but the bottom line is that OP considers this a condition of the job, and your opinion over the significance of the benefit isn’t really useful to her.

              1. baseballfan*

                But that is my point. There is no clear brightline and the argument of whether part time telecommuting is a fringe benefit is an argument of semantics and of inches. And it’s really beside the point. The point is, does losing this benefit cause enough overall job dissatisfaction to make it worth quitting and starting over? In isolation it is hard for me to imagine that it would. If other offers are on the table and attractive enough to approach the companies to reconsider, then that’s not an unreasonable action to take.

                But given the very real issues surrounding some companies and their employment ethics, it is a very large stretch indeed to go from “benefit adjusted/rescinded” to “company lacks ethics and for that reason you should get out of there.”

                1. neverjaunty*

                  “An argument of semantics and inches” meaning that you want the term to have no fixed definition so you can’t be proven wrong.

                2. davey1983*

                  It is unethical because that was part of the agreement– she turned down a much better offer to take this job based on the agreement of being able to telecommute. Then they introduced her new boss to her on her first day of the job (OK, so that wasn’t unethical, but it does scream ‘we don’t care about our employees’).

                  Also, this is not an argument over semantics. She turned down an extra $20 an hour, which is about $40,000 a year. As such, telecommuting in no way (in this situation) would be considered an argument ‘over inches’– It is worth (at least) $40,000 a year to her.

                3. Jerry Vandesic*

                  A key reason why this is unethical is that the new boss reneged on a key component of a bonifide offer given by old boss. New boss can’t be counted on and is not someone I would want to work for.

                4. MsChanandlerBong*

                  A “fringe benefit” is a benefit that supplements the employee’s salary. Working from home is not a salary supplement, so I don’t think it would be considered a fringe benefit.

                5. Jadelyn*

                  When a telecommuting arrangement is *the deciding factor that made OP take the job* over other, more financially generous offers, then I’d say that’s passed the point of being a fringe benefit and into being a core aspect of the job offer the OP agreed to.

                  I honestly can’t believe you’re trying to compare losing paid parking to a massive shift in working conditions, which is what a change from 1/2 telecommute to 0 telecommute is.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              So… I admit I’m biased, because I have turned down more lucrative job offers in the past to keep a nice commute/work from home situation–but precisely because I’ve done so, I can say that within certain limits, a good commute and/or telecommute agreement is worth more than additional money to me. And I don’t think people would fail to understand if someone agreed to (say) $65,000 a year and then were upset that they came in their first day to hear, “Your hiring manager was fired, I’m going to be your new manager, and by the way, we’re paying you $55,000 a year instead.” That’s how a ‘telecommute half the time’ to ‘no telecommuting’ switch would be to me, in terms of how seriously I’d take it.

              People looking for employment are allowed to set priorities in terms of what benefits and perks they want. A fringe benefit to you may be a primary deciding point to me–and what I see is not the LW asking us to judge that, but saying, “A primary deciding point has been rescinded before I even started. What now?” We don’t have to agree with their prioritization to provide useful advice.

            3. Newby*

              It is different when the benefit was a deciding factor in taking the job. It sounds like she would not have accepted this job if it did not include telecommuting. Taking away that benefit now alters the terms of employment in a way that is, for the letter writer, significant. If she does not want the job on the new terms, it is reasonable to consider quitting. You did not accept the job based on the fact that it had paid parking, so the loss of that benefit would not make you reconsider working there.

              1. RJ the newbie*

                New poster here and someone who now finds herself in the same position as OP. I agree, Newby and am currently job searching for this reason because after five months, the company I am currently at decided that they only wanted me to work remotely after I’d been here 18 months and only on an ‘as needed’ basis. This was not what I agreed to during my offer negotiations and I’ve chosen to move on. If this was a key component of why you accepted the offer and this component is removed, your options are to stay as is or move on.

            4. TootsNYC*

              Whether this is “fringe” or “core” is not an objective thing.

              It’s the ONLY reason our OP took this job over another one. She gets to decide whether this is “a nice extra” or “breaking point.” Not you, and not her manager.

              You don’t get to dictate what’s important to her. Neither does the rest of the world.

              1. baseballfan*

                Why so testy? I’m very aware that I don’t get to dictate what’s important to someone else. If this person wants to quit a job solely due to losing telecommuting, that’s obviously their perogative. $40K a year is a significant amount of money by just about anyone’s standards, so that much of a difference in salary makes it clear the importance of this issue to the letter writer.

                We have gotten into the weeds and I had to go back and reread the letter to remind myself what the question really was. It was “Should I push this issue or wait since I am new?” I don’t really think tenure has much if any bearing on the question. In fact, being new and having this benefit discussed before the job was accepted makes it more relevant.

                My point still stands that regardless of how important this is to the person in question, taking away a benefit like telecommuting does not make a company void of ethics.

                1. JessaB*

                  It wasn’t just a benefit, it was a defined condition of the OP taking the job. They would have taken a different job if the telecommuting was not part of the offer. When you tell me before you hire me you’re going to do x, and then immediately after tell me that no x is not happening, when you well know that I only TOOK the job because you offered x, that’s unethical. It’s like promising me $20 an hour and then in my first paycheque I find you’re giving me $15.

                  If you hire me promising me 3 weeks vacation, and when I start work I get told that no despite me negotiating a lower salary for an extra week off, you’re actually not giving anyone 3 weeks, that’s unethical.

                  You don’t promise someone a condition of work to convince them to take a job and then change that condition.

                2. davey1983*

                  Yes, the company is devoid of ethics. Would you be making the same argument if the company had promised to pay her $100,000, but then on her first day said ‘actually, we are only going to be paying you $60,000’?

                  It would be legal, yes, but completely unethical. This is the same thing. Her compensation package has been altered significantly.

                3. Jerry Vandesic*

                  “… taking away a benefit like telecommuting does not make a company void of ethics.”

                  But I think it makes an ethically challenged new boss.

                4. Jadelyn*

                  People are getting testy because you came into a discussion and, rather than addressing the LW’s actual question, started trying to pass judgment on her response to the situation, and have continued to argue that the LW is, essentially, being oversensitive. Which is pretty rude. So I’m not surprised people are getting annoyed with you.

            5. JessaB*

              I think the line is did you refuse another possibly better job because you got free parking? In this case the benefit, telecommuting, was a deal maker. Had it not been on the table, the OP would have picked the other job. It’s not the same as “oh free parking is nice, but it’s not on my list of things that would make me decide/not decide to take a particular job.”

              1. neverjaunty*

                And let’s be clear there are jobs where free parking is a deal breaker, because the availability and cost of parking for the job make it prohibitive. If I get that taken away so that I have to walk twenty minutes down an unpaved roadto get to my office, or pay hundreds of dollars a month to park in a shady area where cars are regularly broken into or stolen, then it’s not a “fringe benefit”; it’s an important consideration of the job.

            6. Chinook*

              Depends on how much parking is. If a company in downtown Calgary suddenly pulled “free parking” as a benefit, it could cost you an extra $800 a month (or $200/month for transit and less flexible availability after core business hours).

              What seems like a fringe benefit to some can actually make a financial impact for others.

            7. CrimsonCaller*

              I believe you are mistaking “covered parking,” to be the colloquial, “I covered it,” meaning that your employer covers the cost. “Covered parking” means parking that is indoors, or under some sort of structure, to keep you from getting wet.

              Paid parking would not be a fringe benefit, it would be a salary. After the merger, you accepted decreased compensation (a pay cut in the vernacular) for the same job. That was your right, but some people would have demanded cash to make up for the parking, either to offset what it now costs them to park, or simply so that from year A to year B they are not receiving less compensation for the same work.

          2. Isabel C.*

            Yep. Plus, an office culture that includes “no telecommuting for anyone ever,” in the twenty-first century, is not one I’d want to join. Having signed on under the impression that the culture was different, I would be looking for a place that more closely resembled what I’d been looking for.

        4. MouseCopper*

          Much like we are told never, ever, ever, ever try and get more money shortly after you start because it is “reneging on your agreement” so should companies be held to the same high standards. Changed benefits that were negotiated and agreed upon after starting is dishonest and nota company I want to work for.

          There is a difference between the yearly changes to health benefits that are largely outside of the offices control and what this office did. It was completely unacceptable to tell OP that frequent telecommuting was OK if the company was even considering banning it for good.

        5. Alton*

          For some people, telecommuting is a fringe benefit. For the OP, it was the deciding factor of taking this job, and it was a major point of negotiation.

        6. Liane*

          “[R]equiring someone to work in the office” may not be “a decline of ethical compass” but a bait & switch job offer **is definitely** “a decline of ethical compass.”

  5. Landshark*

    I was going to say something about the 36 mile round trip because around here, that’s a really nice commute. Then again, I live in a semi rural area. If you’re in a city, that can be insane. The disabled husband bit is more likely to be a good angle here. I’d be upfront and honest about what you need to do at home (and focus less on the commute, since that’s more subjective) and see what you could do, OP. Best of luck.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Be careful of that, though. Someone pointed out upthread that most employers still expect telecommuters to be working a full day. If you’re running to doctors appointments or providing in-home care some employers aren’t going to be thrilled with that. Even if that’s not what OP is doing, her boss could assume that.

      1. Reader*

        My boss does not know and has not asked, and anyway that’s not really the issue. It was offered and accepted, and new management threw it out.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Well I meant that when you go to your boss using Alison’s language to see if you can get the telecommuting back, they might not respond well to being a caregiver, not that that’s the reason they created the new ban in the first place. So it could be an issue in the future.

          That being said, if you make it explicit that you’re not actually doing any caregiving, that shouldn’t be an issue at all. But be aware that that could be the immediate reaction your boss has in their head – don’t dismiss the assumptions people make. Good luck! :)

        2. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, I agree it’s not the point. You accepted the position because being able to telecommute 50% is very important to you, and with that option removed and no new perks/compensation added to the position, the job isn’t right for you. It doesn’t really matter if boss is sympathetic to your personal reasons for preferring to telecommute, just whether he’s willing to find a compromise to make your position worth it to both you and the company.

          1. Leatherwings*

            But realistically, that conversation /might/ be more successful if the boss or other management is sympathetic to the situation. Maybe they made a split second decision because they were frustrated about something else, and hearing the ways it’ll actually affect people (esp. people they’re presumably excited about having recently hired) might make a difference.

            No guarantees, but I really disagree that it’s not worth considering the best way to frame it to the manager. If the commute is 20 minutes long, that’s just not as humanly compelling as “I need to be there to interact with my spouse as often as possible.” OR maybe it’s an hour long commute – most people recognize that that isn’t fun.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        I agree with the point about telecommuting and taking time off. Telecommuting is primarily about removing the commute rather than giving the employee the ability to take time to take care of other things like child care. One employer of mine actively encouraged telecommuting, but required a written agreement for any persons in the household that would require care. If you wanted to telecommute and you had children, you needed to provide a plan including the names of the care providers who would be taking care of the kids (and if it was someone outside of the family, they wanted to see agreements with the sitter/daycare). An occasional step away from work was possible, but no way would they agree to letting a parent be the primary childcare provider during work hours.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. For that matter, when OP said that another coworker with a 1-hour commute still is telecommuting for the time being, with the phrasing suggesting that was longer, my eyebrows went up – traffic is already kinder for OP than for me. My previous job had a 23-mile commute, and it routinely took at least 45 minutes and often took an hour or more, rarely up to an hour and a half, especially in the afternoon.

          1. Rob Lowe can't read*

            Yeah, my head exploded a little at the mention of a 36 mile commute, until I remembered that not everyone lives in metro Boston. :)

            1. Library Director*

              Location, location, location. I used to commute 18 miles, each way, every day and when I first started the job it was a 20 minute drive. After 10 years it was 40 minutes due to population growth. My husband’s last commute was 30 miles each way. His average drive time was 30-40 minutes. When his family asks if he’d move back to NYC he shudders.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Or DC! My 17-mile commute takes a minimum of an hour, more when Metro breaks down again, and it’s still better than driving.

              1. Tia*

                My 8 mile commute takes 40 minutes including a 20 minute train journey. The times the train was cancelled it took me 1 hour 30 on a direct bus route just due to commuter traffic.

        1. Cafe au Lait*

          I have a 13 mile commute and some days it takes up to an hour to get to work.

          1) Rural town with only one paved North-South road.
          2) School traffic. All the parents drive their kids to school. It has taken me 15 minutes to travel less than a football field’s length during the school year.

          I love my swing shift since typically my commute averages around 25 minutes.

        2. Jadelyn*

          That’s probably a regional thing – where I live, it’s incredibly rare for someone to live and work in the same city. Commute times of around 30 minutes one way are practically the standard, and I’ve known people who had 1.5-hr one-way commutes that nobody commented on or thought was extreme. One of the huge reasons I want to stay at my job despite some aspects of it making me really unhappy right now, is because this is the first time I’ve had a job that was in the same town where I live – my commute is 15 minutes (same town, but across town) and I’m THRILLED by that! That’s a positive *luxury* around here.

        3. 2horseygirls*

          26 miles each way = minimum 45 minutes, more like 60-75 in rush hour (there’s a river with only 3 reasonable bridges that everyone has to funnel over).

    2. MashaKasha*

      As someone who once had (not by choice, and not for long) a 130 miles roundtrip work commute, that stood out to me too. My current one is 40 miles roundtrip, and in my book that’s “close to home”. Takes me 20-30 minutes to drive one way. Though I agree that the same 18 miles one way could be a several hour drive at rush hour in some locations. OP has mentioned it upthread that it’s 30 minutes to her too. I think the really big deal is the disabled husband and needing to be closer to him than a 30 min drive away in case there is an emergency. I would focus on that too, because the complaint about having to drive 30 min one way, on its own, might not be taken seriously. And I would definitely stress that there is no care required (again according to OP’s other post). She just needs to *be* there. I would spell it out so there’s nothing left for her boss to assume (I’m replying to both this comment and the next one below it, because why not.)

      1. Leatherwings*

        Didn’t see that reply by OP upthread that she’s not providing care, but just needs to be present. In that case, I agree that making that piece explicit might be a stronger argument than talking about a commute that’s likely under an hour.

        1. Phoebe*

          I think you’re probably right about the OP’s partner’s disability being a stronger argument, but I don’t know know about a 35 mile commute being less than an hour. It depends on where you live. In the city where I live both morning and evening rush hour traffic are a nightmare. A 35 mile commute could easily take an hour, probably closer to an hour and half. My commute is just 12 miles and it takes me 30 minutes to travel that distance every morning.

          1. Leatherwings*

            Well she said 35 miles roundtrip, so I was thinking it was less than an hour there, less than an hour back. I live in a city, so that would take probably 45 minutes each way which isn’t SUPER fun, but is far from unmanageable to most people.

            1. Phoebe*

              Yeah, sorry, I missed that that was round trip. That’s what I get for not re-reading before commenting. My apologies, Leatherwings*

              * love the name!

      2. TootsNYC*

        Then again, that’s a lot of gas plus wear and tear on the car, and if she were going to have that expensive of a commute, she might have taken that job that paid a lot more money!

    3. Temperance*

      My commute, via public transit, is only 24 miles round-trip, but takes over 3 hours/day. So you never know what someone’s circumstances are.

    4. (Another) B*

      Yeah I’ve worked over 36 miles EACH WAY (in one of the worst traffic areas in the entire country no less), so 36 round trip sounds like a piece of cake tbh.

  6. kckckc*

    Sucks that they changed your deal on you, but as a person that drives 44 city miles round trip a day I couldn’t be more thrilled to work so close to home! Anything under 30-40 minutes each way is not normally considered an unusually burdensome drive. The drive is definitely not going to be a strong factor in your argument for honoring your agreement. Good luck.

    1. Reader*

      But the drive wasn’t on the plate in the first place, and if you look at my additional expenditures for that, my salary is decreased by about $400 a month.

    2. neverjaunty*

      As somebody who also has a long and annoying commute, I couldn’t disagree more. This isn’t about what’s “unusually burdensome” to you or I or an average commuter; it’s what works for the OP, and what was agreed on as a condition of her employment.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Right. The question the LW asked was not “how should I feel about my commute? how does it compare to y’all’s commutes?” but “I accepted the job based in significant part on a benefit that was immediately rescinded. Now what?” Answering the former is not especially useful.

    3. BRR*

      I don’t think whether or not this is considered a short or long commute is relevant to the situation. I’m saying this with the bonus knowledge of knowing the lw just needs to be present but not actively providing care but it’s about an employer who drastically changed the working situation of a new employee to such a degree it would be a deal breaker for them.

  7. Mel*

    It sounds like it may not have been very wise to approve telecommuting for an employee who needs to care for someone at home.

    18 miles one way isn’t really that bad unless you’re in one of the top 5 congested cities

    1. aurora*

      Or if you live in Alaska as I do, and a 20 mile commute can entail a walk, a snow machine ride and bush plane trip. All in a days work.

    2. Reader*

      That is not the only reason, which BTW I have never mentioned. I also did not ask to telecommute. It was offered.

    3. Vanesa*

      I don’t live in a top 5 congested city, but my trip was 11 miles one way and it took about 30-45mins to get to work in the morning and an hour to get home! That seems like way to much to me! Haha

    4. Turtle Candle*

      Whether a particular commute is “that bad” seems immaterial; the issue is that the LW took the job based on a benefit that they will not get to use. I’m not sure it’s necessary for us commenters to adjudicate whether that benefit should be important to them or not.

    5. Honeybee*

      I actually don’t get these comments. I live 8 miles from work and my commute takes me 20 minutes. 18 miles is more than twice the length, so I can imagine that being at least a 45 minute commute. I think 45 minutes is pretty bad – especially if one lives in a region that gets snowy weather throughout the winter.

  8. TCO*

    I’m struggling to understand why so many commenters are playing the Commute Olympics here and trying to downplay OP’s concerns about the length of her commute. OP was promised telecommuting and now that’s been taken away. That’s the only point of this letter.

    OP, and only OP, gets to determine what her commute needs are and what’s reasonable for her industry, household, and geographic area. Why doubt or ridicule the limits that she has thoughtfully set for herself?

    1. themmases*

      I totally agree. That is not the point of the letter and in any case it’s rude to respond just to tell the OP they don’t really have it that bad over a totally peripheral issue. No one here knows what the conditions are on the OP’s drive, and it isn’t relevant anyway. The OP was promised that they would drive 0 miles half their days at this job.

      An extra 36 miles a day half the time is a significant expense in gas and wear and tear, too. It’s even more significant when you consider that the OP turned down a huge difference in hourly pay– they’re effectively paying to be bait-and-switched at a job that doesn’t even pay as well as their other options.

      Long commutes and the sprawl that makes them necessary are terrible for our health, the environment, and our society. It is totally backwards to brag about having one, on top of just being really rude.

    2. Vanesa*

      I agree too. The point is she took the job because she would be able to work from home a few times a week and she turned down the other job because of the telecommuting. That was an important factor in her decision and now it was taken away. It really changes things if she had known this in the first place.

    3. Aurion*

      Yeah, this. The commentariat often posts their own stories to bring an OP down to earth if the OP had unreasonable expectations, but commute varies hugely by depending on traffic, location, etc. It’s not just the distance. Berating the OP about “you have it easy” is very counterproductive.

    4. OhNo*

      Agreed. The fact that other commenters here have different perspectives on distance/commute time is irrelevant. Unless everyone commenting also works at the OP’s company, in the same city, that information isn’t helpful right now.

    5. CA Admin*

      I’m having the same problem. 36 miles round trip is not far in an absolute sense. However, she made specific arrangements for her specific situation that makes 36 miles a hardship. Just because it’s not a hardship for everyone (or even most people) doesn’t mean that it isn’t for her.

      1. KG, Ph.D.*

        EXACTLY. It doesn’t even matter if her commute is 3.6 miles round trip. The fact is that she accepted the job based on an understanding that she’d be working from home half time, and those conditions have changed, so she’s understandably frustrated. Full stop.

        1. Norman*

          Not full stop. The importance of a job changing from what was expected depends on the effect of the change. If you take a job expecting there will be soda in the fridge, but then the job stops having free soda, that’s not a huge deal. If they switch from Coke to Pepsi, that’s an even smaller deal.

          If she lived next door to the office, she would be much less justified in being upset at the change. If she lived 100 miles away (and was being forced to come to the office, which apparently isn’t what would have happens in this actual situation), then she’d have much more reason to be upset.

          If you’re hired to only work the copy machine, but your employer asks you to start refilling the coffee makers: no big deal. If you’re hired to only work the copy machine, but then your boss requires you carry out targeted killings: very big deal.

          So, no, not full stop.

          1. MashaKasha*

            I like your itemized list. “targeted killings”, heh heh.

            BTW, the 65-mile commute that I’d mentioned earlier, was sprung on me on my first day on the new job. I’d been hired to work at the main office, which was 25 miles away but in heavy rush hour traffic. And I wasn’t even sure about that, and successfully negotiated my salary to a higher amount based on that. Then on my first day, ta-da! “you’re going to” (satellite office another 40 miles away). “Don’t worry, this is temporary.” The day I found it was actually permanent, I started looking. A month later, I left. Every single person in the office, (with the exception of CEO/owner, who looked surprised), told me that they would’ve done the same.

            I honestly think that the new boss that is opposed to telecommuting, and is canceling previous telecommuting arrangements, for no reason that he can spell out, is a big red flag in itself. Perhaps it is indeed time to start looking again.

          2. Newby*

            Something that is not a big deal to one person can be a very big deal to someone else and no one else can make that determination for them. If I got asked to fill the coffee maker, no big deal. If a mormon got asked to do the same, they may have a big problem with it. Everyone’s priorities are their own and do not need justification or approval.

          3. N.J.*

            Actually it is full stop. K.G. Ph.D. said that based on this specific benefit, the removal of this specific benefit and the fact the OP stated in his or her letter and several times in his or her responses in this thread that this is a deal breaker. K.G. didn’t say that this was true for all changes, as you have interpreted. K.G. seemed to be reacting to the contention here about whether the length of the OP’s commute matters. Your assertions are helpful for the interpretation you read into this , but your interpretation of this commenters response is incorrect, at least based on how I read it. And by responding in the way you did you seem to be denying the importance of this benefit to the OP and also of K.G.’s assertion that the commute is not the issue, the option to telecommute/work from home is.

          4. Kyrielle*

            But different people will experience different effects from the same change.

            If you take a job having been told you will need to work the copy machine, and put out coffee and doughnuts for meetings, and your boss adds supplying specific cookings including peanut-butter cookies from the bakery, not a big deal. Unless you’re contact- or airborne- allergic to peanuts.

            Yes, that would be an ADA accommodation issue since it would be your personal disability. But the impact of something can vary not only with what that something is, but with the specific person experiencing it and their circumstances.

            This was such a major deal to OP that it was worth $20,000 a year. Right there, OP has told us that this is a major thing with a major impact on her life.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Wow, how did my mind turn $20/hour into $20k/year? Apparently I have salary on the brain.

              The basic point stands, but I think I’ll be quiet now, since apparently I’m not coherent.

              1. animaniactoo*

                Actually, your basic point is even stronger. Most people would feel the impact of $20k a year, but if OP is working 40 hours a week, they’ve passed up $41.6k a year – slightly more than double – just to have the part-time telecommute option.

            2. Vanesa*

              I think it’s like you said and we shouldn’t judge what is or isn’t a big deal to someone. I took a job where they told me I would be working 50 hours a week during busy time (first two weeks) and 40 hours a week during not busy time (last two weeks of the month)….well it turned out to be 55 hours a week during busy time and 45 hours a week during not busy time. To some people it might not be a big deal, but to me it was. But only I can decide whether it’s a big deal to me or not.

          5. Honeybee*

            Why do we feel like the LWs have to “justify” their level of upset anyway? Could you imagine how you would feel if you write in for help in a help column and the commenters spent most of their time to trying to determine whether or not your concerns were valid (when that was unwarranted) rather than helping you figure out a solution?

            Besides, the OP says in her original letter that she needs to stay home sometimes because her husband is disabled. The distance doesn’t matter there.

          6. davey1983*

            Yes, full stop. If I was asked to start refilling the coffee makers in addition to my other job responsibilities I would have to tell them no and start looking for a new job if they insisted I do it anyway (religious reasons, I will not touch coffee, and I actually hate/can’t stand the smell of coffee to boot).

            We don’t get to decide what is important or not to people. I once lived a mere two miles from my office, and my commute was about 5-10 minutes (I could walk it in about 20 minutes). However, I was able to telecommute 40-50% of my time, and I found that benefit worth more than the saved commute. If they had taken that away from me, I would have started looking for a job immediately. Most people would say ‘it is only 5 minutes, no big deal’, but it was a huge deal to me for various reasons.

            The reasons for my valuing this benefit also doesn’t matter, and nobody can (or should) claim my reason is invalid– perhaps my spouse is on bed rest and needs me there so I can get her a cup of water or lunch, perhaps I just want to work in my sweatpants and not spend however many minutes getting in office attire. The reason only has to be valid to the person is applies to.

    6. Turtle Candle*

      Agreed. It’s like if you were told you were getting insurance package X, made a decision heavily weighting the value of that to you, and then as soon as you started were told “actually it’s insurance package Y (and doesn’t cover your doctor/medication/whatever.).” Hearing from other people that their insurance is even crappier or isn’t covered at all or etc. doesn’t change that you accepted the job based on one set of benefit information and then had it immediately changed to something far less desirable.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And it’s ever worse for the OP, because she turned down a job based on a plan that was rescinded.

    7. LCL*

      I’m not reading any ridicule. Yet. Maybe some envy, some surprised comparisons, and some different perspectives. And those points of comparison are helpful to the OP, to help them have a better idea of what their options may be. It’s always good when negotiating to know what else is out there. And it’s always good for a person to know and understand the POV of the people you are negotiating with. I’m not saying all points of view are equally valid. I am saying, the more you know about your opponent’s position, the better your chance of some success in your negotiations.

      1. Aurion*

        Unless the commentors have magically intuited the OP’s city, the commute comparisons are irrelevant. 36 miles in NYC is a very different beast than 36 miles in Clearwater. If the OP had said “I live in Seattle” and a bunch of commentors chimed in and said “36 miles in Seattle isn’t bad at all*” then maybe that comparison is useful. But as it is, we don’t know the OP’s location, we don’t know the OP’s industry, and we do know that the company reneged on something previously offered. Maybe it’s not ridicule, but these comments don’t seem to be terribly helpful.

        *for example only, I have no idea what is a reasonable commute in Seattle

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, 36 miles where I used to live in California was not that bad; 36 miles where I currently live (in Seattle, amusingly enough!) would be potentially heinous–but then only potentially, depending 36 miles across where and in which direction. And 36 miles where I grew up in a rural area would go from “a breeze, you can go 80MPH and nobody will catch you on the abandoned tiny roads” in summer to “I don’t know, how fast can you dig?” in winter. It just depends on so much.

          1. Honeybee*

            I literally physically recoiled at the idea of a 36 mile commute in Seattle (where I also currently live). It would depend entirely on the direction, of course, but my first thought was from Everett to downtown and…yikes.

        2. Seattle Writer Gal*


          As a Seattle native, I can tell you with complete certainty that a 36-mile commute in Seattle (18 miles each way or roughly Lynnwood to downtown) is HORRIFICALLY AWFUL. I do 14 miles each way on the freeway during prime rush hour and I spend a minimum of 2 hours in traffic every day. And to boot, the mode of transportation (bus, train, car, even ferry) has had little if any effect on my overall commute time.

          1. Unanimously Anonymous*

            I’ll see your 14 miles each way on the I-5 and raise you a 2x/day trip through the Mercer Mess. Our top dogs made the oh-so-brilliant decision to move our office from the downtown core (just off the I-5) to new digs on Lower Queen Anne. I figure that’s going to add a MINIMUM half hour to my commute each way – and I use mass transit. Some co workers who live in West Seattle or on the eastside are looking at an extra hour each way.

            That’s bad enough. Speaking of stupendously, galactically bad commutes, let’s shed a tear for the poor schlubs at Expedia. Their CEO decided to move their offices from Bellevue to a campus on the Seattle waterfront. Imagine being one of those folks – a 20 minute each-way commute is going to turn into a 2 hour and 20 minute commute. I’m guessing there’ll be lots of vacancies at that company in the next few months…

      2. BRR*

        I’m seeing envy, comparisons, and perspectives too but these things from other commentors don’t really impact how the lw should handle the situation.

    8. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OP was promised telecommuting and now that’s been taken away. That’s the only point of this letter. OP, and only OP, gets to determine what her commute needs are and what’s reasonable for her industry, household, and geographic area.

      Thanks for saying this, TCO (and others who chimed in) — absolutely agreed.

    9. MashaKasha*

      This is why. The new boss is already opposed to telecommuting on principle. If OP comes to him and says she’s got to telecommute because otherwise she’ll be commuting 30 minutes one way, without offering any other explanation, he’ll laugh her out of the office. Which isn’t the outcome she needs. She needs a way to negotiate that will get through to this new boss, who does not believe in telecommuting already.

      1. Reader*

        Actually he’s not opposed. He was hoping to do it himself. He was told by upper management, and I believe he is telling the truth based on what I have heard about UM.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Ahhh my bad, I had totally misread that and thought it was him. That’s bizarre. Why did the same UM that was okay telecommuting when they made you the offer that included it, back out of it now?

          Hmm in that case “this was part of my offer package” might actually be a better negotiating point (I admit I know next to nothing about negotiating anything). It’s their offer package, that they made.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes! It sounds like careful consideration was given to all aspects of the jobs between which she selected, and, after choosing telecommuting over money, that’s been revoked. It’s a shitty situation, and I’d be mad if the conditions of my employment didn’t match what was represented when I interviewed. It sucks.

      On the upside, if she does have the opportunity to go back to the other offer or start interviewing again, “The job was materially different from what I interviewed for.” is a solid reason for leaving after a short time that shouldn’t raise eyebrows.

    11. AnonMeh*

      I’m sensing a wee bit of commiserating over miserable commutes, but I think all this input also puts into perspective how management may be looking at it. I don’t know if there is some magical formula for figuring out reasonable vs. unreasonable commutes.

      Naturally, everyone has their own criteria. I am outside Chicago, which just flat sucks trafficwise, no matter what part you are in (north, south, western burbs or within city limits). I was incredibly spoiled by a 4.6 mile round-trip commute for 7.5 years.

      But, there is generally an accepted standard of X being a regionally accepted commute, and OP can only benefit from knowing where that invisible cultural norm is, in order to bolster her argument one way or the other.

      My husband knows there are 114 stoplights between home and Y, because he drove it for 4 years. He has no sympathy for my measly 52-mile round trip commute. I’ve compensated by going way over our data plan listening to podcasts and the like. We all make it work somehow . . . . ;)

  9. azvlr*

    OP, I get it that you yourself are not disabled, but I can’t help but wonder if working from home can be considered an ADA reasonable accommodation.

    1. azvlr*

      I found this Q&A commentary on after a Google search for “disabled spouse of employee reasonable accommodation”:
      Q. What is discrimination based on “relationship or association” under the ADA?
      A. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on relationship or association in order to protect individuals from actions based on unfounded assumptions that their relationship to a person with a disability would affect their job performance, and from actions caused by bias or misinformation concerning certain disabilities. For example, this provision would protect a person whose spouse has a disability from being denied employment because of an employer’s unfounded assumption that the applicant would use excessive leave to care for the spouse. It also would protect an individual who does volunteer work for people with AIDS from a discriminatory employment action motivated by that relationship or association.

      While the work from home arrangement may not fall into this category in a strict legal sense, (or it could for all I know) your employer may not want to risk an ADA violation, so you may have some leverage here.

      1. OhNo*

        If I’m reading that correctly, it looks like denying a request to telecommute simply because she has a disabled spouse may be an ADA violation.

        The company didn’t frame it that way, and the OP mentioned that their employer doesn’t know about their spouse, so right now it doesn’t seem to be relevant. It’s probably good to have it in the back of their mind anyway, just in case it comes up later.

        1. Unanimously Anonymous*

          You’re reading the ADA clause exactly right, OhNo. A former boss of mine was “encouraged to seek other opportunities” specifically for giving a subordinate (yours truly) a hard time for having to take occasional time off (under FMLA) in order to deal with an Alzheimer’s-afflicted parent. In my case, this ADA clause paired up with the FMLA’s prohibition on retaliating against those who exercise their FMLA rights – so she was shown the door for exposing the company to liability under TWO major Federal employee-rights laws.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, not quite. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on your association with someone who has a disability. But it does not require employers to make accommodations for another person’s disability, only the employee’s. So they can’t discriminate against you for having a disabled husband, but they also don’t need to make accommodations to let you care for him (although they might need to give you leave under FMLA for that).

      1. Unanimously Anonymous*

        Sorry Mel, this isn’t correct. azvlr provided a quote directly from Uncle Sam’s ADA website which stated that those who are associated with /related to a disabled person are protected from employer retaliation or other adverse actions.

        1. Mel*

          i meant the accommodation part of Ada. You don’t get an accommodation for other people’s disabilities

  10. Bend & Snap*

    I don’t live far from my office but telecommuting was revoked for awhile this year and people were PISSED. It had a huge impact on my quality of life and enjoyment of my job, and I don’t have a “reason” to telecommute except that I like to. We just got it back and everyone’s thrilled.

    OP doesn’t have to justify why she wants to work remotely. It was offered, she accepted the offer in large part due to that benefit, and now it’s gone. End of story. It’s no different than switching up healthcare options or cutting her PTO.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Very true. Unless the job requires being physically in the office or the employee isn’t considered trustworthy for some reason, I think it’s very foolish to make employees justify why they want to work from home. It’s a perk, like a gym. Nobody goes around demanding to know why you’re going for a quick run at lunch.

    2. OhNo*

      Yep. If nothing else, maybe they can leverage the lack of telecommuting into some other useful benefit. More PTO, flexible schedule, higher hourly rate… There are some other things that might make the loss more palatable, at least.

      OP, if (hopefully when) you do bring this to your boss, keep that in the back of your mind as an option. If they continue to refuse telecommuting, you can at least ask about getting some other benefit instead.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Yes. If they refuse to budge on the working from home, OP could try something like “When I accepted this job, I hadn’t factored in costs of the commute for half of the month. Given that, I’m wondering if we can renegotiate a higher hourly rate.”

        I know that raises aren’t about someone’s budget, but since OP lost some of her negotiating power by… you know… accepting their original offer, I think it’s justified.

    3. Anon Always*

      I think that is the real issue. It’s bait and switch. The OP made a decision based on the information provided to her during her interview and negotiation period. We have no idea the types of compromises she made in accepting this position. Some benefits are more important to some people than others. For example, PTO and the 401K match is more valuable to me than salary. So I make my decisions about what position to take based on what is important to me.

      I don’t know what the OP’s options are, but I would be upset that such a key perk was withdrawn when it was clearly one of the reasons that she accepted this job over others.

    4. TootsNYC*

      And if you had all decided that you were going to work somewhere else, it would be a perfectly legitimate reason to leave. Or if you didn’t like that they stopped providing free coffee cups.

    5. Mel*

      But justifying seems like the only real chance of getting it now. She already said it was part of the deal and that didn’t do anything. So it’s either try to justify it, accept it, or leave.

  11. MouseCopper*

    I would call up the other company that offered you a job and ask if they are still hiring. Explain that you were really excited about their offer, but that telecommuting was a deciding factor in choosing Company A and that they banned Telecommuting your first day in the role.

    Honestly I would have called them on the first day in the office. I’ve never had a “wait a few months and see” for items like telecommuting, pay raises, etc ever work out in my favor. I take that statement, unless it’s from someone I trust explicitly, to mean “I don’t have the guts to tell you this just isn’t going to happen. So I’m going to string you along.”

  12. Norman*

    Although this isn’t a great thing for her employer to do, I’m having a hard time being overly sympathetic to somebody whose commute is only 18 miles each way.

    1. Anon Always*

      It’s a benefit that was advertised and promised that was taken away without the OP’s consent.

      To me this is no different than telling a potential employee that they are going to receive a 10% match on their 401K contributions, and then when they are hired inform them that there is no 401K match available.

    2. Purest Green*

      I also have a longer commute than OP but can manage to sympathize with someone who took a job under certain conditions that are now being rescinded.

    3. Jeanne*

      I thought it was 36 miles each way. Anyway, it’s not important if you have sympathy for the commute.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        The OP says:

        “The home office is 36 miles a day roundtrip.”

        But I agree that no one else’s opinion of the commute matters.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Then you’d hate me. My commute is under 3 miles each way.

      My point is actually this: Everyone makes different choices. You chose your long commute for a reason. I chose my short commute for a reason. She chose her telecommuting offer for a reason. It sounds like you’re not happy with your choices, but that has nothing to do with the OP.

      1. Vanesa*

        My commute is a 5 minute walk and I love it! Part of the reason why I took this job and I had another offer that was about 8 miles (about 45 minutes) away. If my company moved I would have things to consider because I hate sitting in traffic!

    5. Honeybee*

      18 miles is different everywhere. My manager lives 15 miles away from work and it takes her 1.5-2 hours to get to work every day because the traffic is so bad and there’s no reliable public transit route that she can take in. I have lots of coworkers who live less than 20 miles away with rough commutes because the traffic in this area is so bad. Most people aren’t simply driving 18 miles down an open country road (and even if they are, 18 miles could still be a 30-45 minute commute depending on which back roads and how windy they are).

      It’s really about the agreement and then the taking away of a benefit. Besides, the OP also says that her husband is disabled and that’s the reason she needs to telecommute sometimes.

    6. davey1983*

      You have completely missed the point.

      Doesn’t matter how long the commute is or isn’t– the issue is that telecommuting was included as part of the compensation, she accepted the position based on that offer and the company has now taken a significant part of her compensation away (I doubt you would have said the same thing if the company had cut her pay by $40,000 on her first day).

      The reasons for valuing the perk are also not relevant– she values them (at a value of at least $40,000 a year), and this benefit is a deal breaker for her. Commenting on the length of her commute (or the reasonableness/unreasonableness of it) isn’t productive. The commute could be her walking across the street and it wouldn’t matter to the situation!

    7. Mike C.*

      I can’t believe you don’t understand the other perks of working from home. Cone on, think about it.

    8. EddieSherbert*

      And depending where you live, 18 miles can take anywhere from less than 18 minutes to, like an hour.

      My aunt lives near (within 30 miles) and works in a really large city, and regularly mentions to me how she could commute to my small city (over 60 miles away) faster than to her current job.

    9. Norman*

      Frankly, I find these response to me ridiculous. They basically say: “It’s outrageous for an employer to ever change the terms of a job.” Yeah, okay. If you’re hired to work 9-5:30, they can NEVER change it to 8:30 to 5:00, right? Because that violates the expectation you signed on for… For that matter, how dare an employer ever promote somebody!!! After all, they weren’t original hired thinking that’s the job they’d be doing.

      Please. I understood her complaint perfectly. She’s upset the job didn’t stay exactly the say she expected. If it were a drastic change, I’d feel for her. 18 miles each way isn’t that drastic.

      1. OP*

        Your response is kind of ridiculous. I would understand if 6 months down the line they made this proclamation, but this happened basically after I took the offer and walked in the door my first day. Of course employers change things; I’ve been working a LONG time and have been on both sides so I understand that. It has NOTHING to do with the mileage, but I suppose you haven’t read the other comments.

  13. Reader*

    I should add that One of my office mates is also not happy that her terms were changed and that two people aren’t here due to distance, so it’s not just me, though I am the newest and accepted this offer based on the telecommute terms. I don’t know her situation nor the other team members terms, but it certainly is not fair. The one who lives out of state is flown to the office occasionally, but that means an all expense paid trip where she gets to work just 3 days a week because 2 are “travel days.” I’m not privy to what’s in the works so they may be looking to shave those costs, but we’ll see how it plays out.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Ugh, it sounds like a lot of people are upset over this policy change. It really isn’t fair for them to change to terms of your offer, and I would be frustrated also.

      Don’t let yourself get too sidetracked with issues like the person out of state. That’s logistically and entirely different situation, and she’s not exactly getting all-expenses paid vacations getting carted into the office every few months. Focus on the issue here: They backed out of something that was a key reason for you to accept the job. They should recognize that and take steps to fix it, whether that be re-instating working from home, re-negotiating your pay, or something else.

      1. Joseph*

        Yeah, the person out of state isn’t relevant to this discussion because it’s literally not possible for the company to ask the person to stop telecommuting. Based on how they’re treating you, it’s very likely that they’d change Out of Stater’s telecommuting too if they could. That’s not special treatment on their part, just a recognition that they don’t have an option.

    2. GovWorker*

      The manager that was fired was acting as an agent of the employer. You took her representations in good faith and accepted the position based on her representations. As such, I see this as an issue of corporate integrity (or lack thereof) that the fired manager’s statements to you are being tossed aside. I would make this the basis of my appeal and I would definitely appeal.

      If anybody anywhere is working flexiplace, then claiming a total ban on telecommuting is in place strikes me as disingenuous. Telecommuting benefits employers too, for continuity of operations in case of emergency, reduced office space required, reduced utility costs, and reduced transit subsidies (if any).

      No matter how nice they seem, I wouldn’t stay there without some type of compromise. You gave up too much to not get what you were expecting.

  14. whatthewhat*

    The reddest flags are all over this one, starting with: “The day I started, I was introduced to my new boss, because the one who hired me had been fired.”

    Good luck OP. You may want to start job hunting just in case.

    1. Unanimously Anonymous*

      Between the brand-new boss on Day 1 and the new boss making the OP work onsite 100% of the time at the beginning, I think the expression you’re looking for is “more red flags than Lenin’s mausoleum on May Day.”

    2. Anna*

      Yeah. I wonder if the telecommuting issue and the manager being fired are related in some way and that’s why upper management got involved in the conversation and changed the policy.

  15. Honeybee*

    Today he informed the team that the higher-ups decided no one gets to work at home, ever…if you are sick or need to work at home for some other reason for a day, that might be allowed…the one who lives an hour away gets to work at home most of the time; the one out-of-state works at home all the time she is not off-site…

    This is weird because they mean two different things. Saying no one ever gets to work from home is different from saying “I’d really prefer if you were in the office most days but if you’re sick or need to be home for some other reason that can be okay.”

    1. Katie F*

      It sounds like that particular “no one gets to work from home, except when they do” is just a nice way of saying “we’re not giving you sick time”.

  16. Phouka*

    I’ve telecommuted for 12 years. If I took a job that we negotiated and agreed on telecommuting as part of me taking the job, and it changed, I would be looking for another job.

    Yes, things can change. Yes, they can change the rules at any time. But having this sprung on me when it was already agreed to? I’d be pissed. It is a critical part of what I want/need for a job. And if I had turned down a different position to take this one, and then it changed? Doubly so.

    And it makes no difference how long the commute is. I have made a 130 mile RT commute, and a 12 mile RT commute. The 12 mile commute was worse. Arguing that “it’s not a big deal” because it’s only a few miles is really not very useful.

  17. VX34*

    The fact that the manager who hired the OP was fired between the hiring of the OP and OP’s start date would be a much more horrendous red flag to me. Not to diminish the crappiness of the situation without that, but holy crap. I’d want to run screaming from the building if that happened, because when does it happen to me, etc.?

    1. Patrick*

      Not saying it’s not something to be wary about, but it also can fall under the general “sh*t happens” umbrella. People get fired, leave for new jobs, etc all the time and it’s not always going to line up with interviewing for open positions. Obviously it’s not ideal to have someone who’s about to get fired interviewing candidates, but it also doesn’t immediately make me think that a business is firing people left and right.

      1. davey1983*

        My concern there is more on the fact that the company didn’t inform her of the fact she was getting a new boss.

        The company should have at least sent her an email saying ‘fyi, old new boss gone, here is your new new boss’.

  18. InboxIngrid*

    Question: If telecommuting was included in the OP’s written offer, would she be able to enforce this against her employer? It sounds like no matter what, if the business needs changed and OP needed to be in the office everyday, there’s really nothing that can be done about it.

    1. davey1983*

      Having it in writing would help her (usually) when she brings this up with management, but the company is not legally required to follow those terms unless it is an actual contract.

      A company can say they will pay you $100,000/year and have that in your offer letter, but then tell you on the first day ‘sorry, we are only going to pay you $60,000/year’. Legal, but very slimy and unethical (though, to be fair, you might be able to sue them if you can show that you made decisions based on their representations to your detriment, i.e., you turned down a $85,000/year offer based on their stated pay which turned out to be false).

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, that’s what I was trying to explain in the post. If it’s a contract, it’s legally binding, but most workers in the U.S. don’t have contracts. If it was in a written offer letter, the company has the right to change it at any time, just like they could lower your salary or change your health care benefits (just not retroactively).

    3. Reader*

      It wasn’t written, that’s part of the problem… And the person who offered it to me was fired.

    4. GovWorker*

      That’s part of the moral of this story to me. Any key condition of employment must be in writing.

  19. Reader*

    I’ve done both the commute (in Los Angeles, so I know from commutes) and have not only worked remotely for years but have managed remote teams. It IS worth that much to me to be home, period. I was traveling a lot in my last job so I was looking forward to being home. I failed to say before I started I was sent equipment for my home office, that I still have.

  20. crazy8s*

    OP, if you do decide to find another job and get the opportunity to have an exit interview, be sure you let them know that this is why you are leaving. You can do that in a professional manner. They need to know this information. It may very well be that the higher ups are not aware of this situation.

  21. OP*

    So, interestingly I heard yesterday that the one telecommuter who lives an hour away gave them a ultimatum when he heard “no one at home, ever.” Apparently he had been given (with prior management) reimbursement for mileage. This new management was not going to do that so he said he’d either work at home OR he could continue to be reimbursed.
    They caved. He gets to work at home. I’m more ethical than that and am taking the high road.

    I do find it interesting here how many people focused on the commute and how it seems like a “fringe benefit.” The issue is NOT about the commute. I’ve done lots longer commutes than this, and this one is fairly reasonable. I feel your pain, Washingtonians. :) The point is it was offered, then rescinded. It was never a “fringe benefit” for me. I’ve had that fringe benefit, which was great, but it was never part of a job offer like this one.

    1. voyager1*


      I am glad your gave this update because my initial reading of your letter wasn’t really painting a very postitive light on you.

      That being said this update concerns me, it sounds like new boss is really flexing her authority. This could be a sign of things to come, hate to say it but you might want to start job searching again.

      1. Reader*

        Excuse me… A “not very positive light”…of me? That’s pretty rude. I was offered a job with certain terms, gave up a lot of money to do so, had the offer rescinded, and reflects poorly on me??

        1. davey1983*

          Let me also say that you were very reasonable.

          I am also sorry that a few of the comments here have completely missed the issue and decided to lecture or pass judgement on how reasonable/unreasonable a commute is.

          1. voyager1*

            AAM and Davey,

            Did the thought occur to either of you that maybe some people are reading a different tone then others. My first reading of this letter didn’t get much sympathy, but my opinion changed some after reading her update. I thought the OP was coming off really snobby sounding, but my opinion changed after her update, too her being more frustrated. I imagine people who are taking her task about the commute distance may be picking up on a different tone then others.

              1. voyager1*

                I would have probably gotten that vibe too if she had left out the cubical and lights comments. I did an eye roll at that.

                At my workplace we can work from home, but it can’t be abused. We had a person abuse it and now it has to approved by our manager. I have small kids and sometimes have to cover late hours so I am allowed to do it, because that is approved.

                I am not so sure if bait and switch is really the right analogy. More like new sheriff is in town.

                1. davey1983*

                  No, it was a bait and switch. Promised one thing and then when you get there (not before) you find the situation is actually different.

                  It would be like a new sheriff is in town if they notified her of the situation before she started and told her about the changes (new boss, no telecommute, etc.).

            1. davey1983*

              What does tone have to do with it? There was a benefit she valued at least $40,000 that she was promised, but then didn’t receive it.

              If letter had said ‘I was promised $100,000 compensation but on my first day of work I was informed my compensation will only be worth $60,000’, I doubt anybody would be claiming what you did (unsympathetic, ‘positive light’, etc.).

          2. OhBehave*

            She was promised something vital to her accepting the job, and then it was removed. I found nothing in your letter that was unreasonable.
            The commute ‘non-issue’ seems to be an issue that stuck in the craw of several here! You could probably removed half of the comments due to commute discussions.

    2. davey1983*

      I am a little confused as to what your coworker did that was unethical when he gave the ultimatum?

      I wouldn’t recommend an ultimatum as you rarely get what you want, and even if you do get what you want management will (in my experience) start making plans on pushing you out (for various reasons). Plus, if management does not cave you either have two choices: quit or have no influence/power with management ever again. However, I don’t know of anything unethical about ultimatums.

      Have you talked to management (perhaps even talking to your boss’s boss) about how telecommuting was offered, and that you only want to receive what was promised to you? Did you mention that it was the biggest reason you chose this job over your other offers? If you have, and the answer is still ‘no’, I would start another job hunt (first, I would see if the other job was still available, but that does create issues– that employer may think you are ‘settling’ for your second choice). At your exit interview I would mention (professionally) why you are leaving.

      Your current employer has shown that they are unwilling to follow through on their commitments, time to move on to the next place.

    3. micromanagedrat*

      ” I’m more ethical than that and am taking the high road”. What did he do that was even remotely unethical? He wanted something, he asked, he got it. I fail to see why you think you are somehow more ethical.

      1. OP*

        I believe it’s unethical to give your boss an ultimatum, not to mention plain stupid, unless you want to lose your job. He Just made the announcement, then was given this ultimatum… “Sure, I’ll come to the office but you’re going to have to pay me mileage to do so or else I’m going to work at home like I want to do. “

        1. davey1983*

          Sorry, I’m still not seeing how it is unethical to give your boss an ultimatum. Stupid, yes, but can you explain how it is unethical (I’m probably missing something obvious)?

        2. Rana*

          That’s not being unethical, though. It’s stating the terms under which he is willing to continue working for the company. That’s a pretty standard example of looking out for one’s own interests.

          I’m a little worried for you, now, that you might see advocating for yourself in that fashion as unethical. Don’t. It is okay to do that!

          Whether it is practical, or desirable, in your particular situation to say “do this or I’ll walk” – you have to be willing to walk, after all – is another issue. It’s still not unethical.

  22. OP*

    I can see I should totally have left out the commute mileage. It’s not even significant and I’m still surprised at the people who think it is. Across the street, 1 mile or 100…it makes no difference. If I was not told in my offer that I could work from home half the time, this would not be an issue.

    1. OhBehave*

      As you can see, attempts were made to remove the issue of commute on several posts to no avail! There may have still been arguments/speculation behind the reasons for telecommuting (despite the very valid reason stated). It was just not a pertinent part of your problem. *sigh*

      That being said, what do you think you will do at this point?

  23. Rocky*

    I sympathise completely with OP’s plight and I think the advice, to approach the manager frankly and assess the response, is spot on. I am genuinely confused by how many commenters have gone down the rabbit hole of the commute distance. It seemed to pop back up at least three times in the comments thread, despite Alison’s attempts to re-focus the discussion. Do people not read the comments thread before commenting? I understand being eager to contribute one’s wisdom, but it only take a few more minutes to read to the bottom…is this a cultural thing perhaps (I’m in NZ)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are a couple of different commenting styles — one is to read everything and treat it like a discussion, and the other is to just leave your own comment without necessarily reading anything else. I think you’re seeing some of the latter here.

  24. Rachel*

    I love the mealy-mouthed way many people approach conflict. It’s the exact reason bosses like this get away with the crap that they do. They know that the most they can expect in response is. “I’m disappointed. I would like the agreement we made to be upheld. Maybe. But only if that’s OK with you, Sir. Yes, thank you. Sorry for bothering you. Thank you, bye, thank you.”

    “…I understand that the company is changing the way it approaches telecommuting, but since this was a key part of my offer, I’m hoping we can figure out a way to make this work.” Get real, FFS. Do you see your boss taking such a limp-wristed approach to renegotiating fundamental parts of this working arrangement? No? Why do you think that is?

    Tell your boss to honour your agreement, or get ready to be sued. It’s that simple. Only then will he get his head out of his ass long enough to hear your needs above his own. Narcissists aren’t known for their empathy, or willingness to admit when they’re in the wrong. They need to be forced to do the right thing. Always. Demand they uphold their side of the bargain, or sue. Despite the advice in this column, verbal agreements are enforceable. Your other option is to stay and get p*ss taken out of you by someone that has zero respect for you. The choice is yours.

    1. Elspeth*

      Wow. You really didn’t read the letter, did you? The half-time work from home deal was exactly why OP took the position. No need to be nasty to the OP because her boss rescinded that deal!

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