my employee works from home too much

This week on the Ask a Manager podcast, I talk with a manager who gives her staff a lot of flexibility when it comes to working from home, and she’s concerned one employee is using that flexibility in a way that isn’t quite working for their team. Here’s the letter she sent to me, and you can listen to our discussion about it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Anchor (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen above.

Our company doesn’t have a work from home policy; it’s up to manager discretion. I lead a small team that requires a lot of “face time” with senior leaders, but I try to be as flexible as possible. There’s no “policy” for when you can and cannot work from home. It’s up to the employee, and I just ask they join any meetings remotely and give me a heads up if they aren’t going to be in the office.

One of my employee works from home a lot. It’s more than once per week, on average 6 times per month. It’s often at the last minute, although half the time, it could have been a planned thing (like child care coverage while husband is traveling for work). The other half of the time, it’s an unplanned thing (like car troubles or a sick child).

I work from home approximately 2 days/month, typically planned a week or more in advance. The other two members are about the same. Of all of us, this employee is the least senior in terms of experience. 

Here are my issues: (1) I feel like a lot of this could be planned in advance, but the employee is disorganized. I prompt her (and the entire team) to share upcoming PTO, work from home, etc. in our weekly team meeting and our weekly 1:1 meeting, but there’s still a lot of last minute remote work. (2) There are perceptions that she isn’t around very often and therefore is difficult to get a hold of. Since most people do NOT work from home, colleagues often stop by and see she’s not there and assume she’s out. (3) It’s hard for me to gauge how productive this employee is when working from home. She tends to hit deadlines, but I feel she may be purposefully setting longer time tables. (4) When I collected feedback for her review, people mentioned unreliability and disorganization. Her work is okay, but there’s room for improvement. And, I want to give her *more* work, but worry that she’ll be unable to stay on top of it all.

I don’t want to be punitive – this isn’t a problem YET, but I worry it could be. And I want to give her more responsibility, but the erratic schedule could be problematic. How can I address this before it becomes a concrete issue, but still allow the valuable flexibility?

And if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

{ 173 comments… read them below }

      1. purple otter*

        Is it possible to tag the podcast transcripts with “transcripts” or something to make it easier to find past transcripts? Right now the only way I can find the transcripts is by finding the post for the podcast and then looking for the link to the transcript. (by the way, is there a transcript for Ep 1? I couldn’t find it in the original post.) Thanks!

        Apologies if this is in the wrong place, wasn’t sure where was most appropriate to put in my suggestion.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, good question! Right now I’m posting them as “pages” as opposed to blog posts (WordPress considers those two different things), and so there’s no way to tag them … but let me look into it a bit more to see if there’s a way to do it that I’m overlooking.

          Meanwhile, though, if you’re looking for an easy way to find all the podcast posts, they’re here:

          1. Cassandra*

            What looks to me like a low-impact WordPress plugin for page tags linked to my handle. I haven’t used it, but it looks to be well-reputed.

            Apologies if I’ve misidentified the software you’re using.

          1. purple otter*


            And sorry that I’m being “that annoying person,” but could you please link the transcripts main page in your “topics” page?

      2. Sally*

        Why not just procure the transcript with enough time to release it alongside the podcast? For instance, you could have held this post for a few more days until the transcript was ready.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We’re often editing up until the last minute, and I like to post it here the day the show comes out. It’s not perfect, but it’s the system that works right now.

      3. a*

        Thanks for transcripts! I can’t listen to podcasts – I stop paying attention fairly quickly – but I love reading your advice and don’t want to miss out. I really appreciate your website and content and wanted to let you know!

        1. sequitur*

          +1 – podcasts don’t work for me either, so I’m very glad there’s the option to read through the transcript later.

        2. Lia*

          Yes, thank you. I read very quickly and podcasts are too slow for me to get in to, so transcripts are terrific.

      4. verity*

        I am so happy that you are doing transcripts. I rarely have time to listen to podcasts and I’m a visual learner anyway, so being able to read them is ace :)

      5. ZenAngel*

        I would like to thank you for providing transcripts! I am a longtime reader of your blog, and I happen to be deaf in one ear and have partial hearing loss in the other, as a result of getting the mumps as a child. So many podcasts interest me, only for me to get discouraged when there are no transcripts for me to read along. I end up missing key words and sentences, even after replaying them several times. This naturally leads to frustration, and often I just give up on it entirely. I’m so happy I can enjoy your podcasts without issue in the future! Thanks once again!

  1. JJJJShabado*

    I’ve been enjoying the podcast. It’s very well done. I liked the addition of listener feedback.

    I think “Make the implicit, explicit” is really good advice.

  2. Green Goose*

    When I used to be able to work remotely 1-2 times a week my manager made it very clear that I had to give him a day’s notice. He didn’t like last minute WFH notifications like described in the OP. He was pretty strict but it got me in the habit of planning ahead. I think he said that if it were an emergency I could take PTO. Maybe if the manager frames it that way, there will be less last minute requests and better planning.

    1. Becky*

      My job allows one WFH day per week–I regularly work from home on Friday. If there is any deviation from that I am asked to give a day’s notice, barring unforseen circumstances (example: after a big snow, some roads were plowed but my neighborhood was not, after spinning out less than a block from my driveway I let my boss know I would be working from home). Being more specific about timelines and what is permitted and what is not could help.

      However there is something that could help for this issue:
      (2) There are perceptions that she isn’t around very often and therefore is difficult to get a hold of. Since most people do NOT work from home, colleagues often stop by and see she’s not there and assume she’s out.

      At my office when someone is working from home they are instructed to put a sign on their monitor saying something like “I am working from home today. I can be reached via chat, email or phone (ext. 123).” To let people know that they are working and to reach out. We are told we have to really stay on top of our communication when we work from home.

      1. Natalie*

        I was a little surprised that people seemed to not know the employee was working from home – most places I’ve worked, it’s been pretty standard so send an email to your team to let them know that you are working remotely. If that is not typical at the letter writer’s office, it might be an option.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          We put an appointment in our calendar and send a meeting invite (all day, available, no response, no reminder) to the department so that it appears at the top of everyone’s calendar for the day and you’re booked out if anyone tries to schedule a meeting.

      2. Green Goose*

        Yeah, I think its good if there is a designated day or it’s clear ahead of time because I don’t want to bother a coworker if they are on PTO or taking care of a sick kid, but if they are working remotely I know I can just call or message them. The problem with the OP is that this coworkers WFH days are impacting the work, and working remotely can only be allowed if it doesn’t negatively impact the work.

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        That’s a great idea. I work from home full-time, so I have to be really careful about how well I communicate with colleagues. I make it a point to respond immediately to Slack/Skype messages, and I answer all emails within one hour. I’ve also been keeping a log of what I accomplish each day in case there’s ever any question about what I am doing with my time. I don’t think there will be–I honestly get more done in a day than most of my coworkers–but I like having a log of completed tasks/projects so I can refer to it.

      4. WhitinOhio*

        My impression was that this was coming from other employees of the company that work with the guest’s team, not from the other members of that team.

      5. Specialk9*

        I find it odd that the manager described herself as “flexible” and then says that she will only flex if scheduled in advance. That’s not flexible, by definition that’s rigid.

        So… Just call yourself rigid and disinclined to be flexible, and be honest.

        For people who value flexibility, they’ll think that it’s ridiculous to complain about someone taking only 1.2 days of telework a week, in a self-described “flexible” workplace.

        And your team is ridiculous. “But where iiiiiiis she, we only see her Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and can only reach her by email or IM or Skype or phone! It’s like she doesn’t even work here!!” I’m seriously wondering how they manage to function in life.

        Massive eyeroll to all of you. It’s 2018.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Did you listen to the podcast? That is really not the situation. Flexible doesn’t mean giving someone everything they want.

          And childishly insulting the manager’s team is highly unnecessary.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That is really not the case, and it’s tremendously unfair to the letter writer — and awfully unkind to someone who was willing to share her situation with us. I’m not sure if you listened to the show or not, but I don’t think you’d come away with that impression if you did.

        3. Mad Baggins*

          This seems pretty harsh. I haven’t listened yet but it’s clear from the letter that the issue is that she is generally unreliable. It’s not that other employees are like “I can’t see her, she must be dead!”, it’s that they’re like “I can’t see her, she must be out again. As usual.” I don’t think the issue is with employer flexibility (although maybe that’s part of it) but the employee’s reputation.

    2. Allison*

      At my old job, we each got a WFH day once per week, more if we needed it. When I knew I wanted/needed to work from home on a specific day, I’d tell my manager ahead of time, but other times I really wouldn’t know until the morning of, or night before! You don’t always know when you’re gonna get sick, or when someone else will get sick, or when your car will start making a funny noise or won’t start at all. I think it’s fair to generally want some notice, but there needs to be some wiggle room on the last-minute stuff, because it happens.

      1. Nan*

        But I’m reading 3 out of 6 are unplanned sick kids or car problems. 3 car issues or kid issues in a month is excessive.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Also, depending on the age of the kid, a sick kiddo sounds like a PTO day rather than a WFH day.

        2. Specialk9*

          I’ve had 3 school closures in the past 2 weeks, and my SIL’s kids are always sick (and the sickness is staggered across a week or two until all 5 family members have gotten sick). Another coworker’s kid got a massive eat infection every month as a baby until they put tubes in. So lots of kid things can happen.

          But if I’m getting my work done, who cares? I’m side-eyeing this inflexible manager and rigid team.

    3. cncx*

      i’m living this right now, it is hard to plan because i have a coworker who does a lot of last minute/unplanned wfh (at least once a week). I really wish my boss would do something like ask him to put it in the calendar or plan for it because when i’m the only one in the office i can’t focus on my project work. Luckily, other than time management i don’t really mind if my coworker works from home, i just wish it would be something like “home office every wednesday” instead of “btw [minor crisis happened] i’m gonna wfh” emails at 9am

  3. Just Employed Here*

    It sounds like you *do* need a policy, OP.

    At my office, we can work at home one day a week, and we need to request it two working days in advance. (But we additionally have the legal right to stay at home for a number of days with a sick child.) For us, it works.

    1. fposte*

      When you’re saying “legal right to stay at home for a number of days with a sick child,” do you mean that you’re allowed to use sick days to take care of your child or is there something more specifically job protective outside of FMLA? (Or are you not in the US?) I know about the first (my state mandates that too) but your phrasing made me wonder if it was something more.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I’m in Europe. Employee sick days are separate from days you need to take care of a sick child (although this week has been an unholy mix of both, and hubby and I are just now trying to figure out what we’re doing the rest of the week!).

        We have an unlimited number of sick days, but by the third consecutive day you’re out you need a doctor’s note.

        The taking care of a sick child means that you can work from home if you’re child can’t go to daycare or school, up to three consecutive days I think. I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to do for the fourth day and beyond — but by the time you’ve used up both parents’ (if applicable) three days plus any possible support from grandparents etc., the kids are usually well again.

        Also, in practice everyone understands that you don’t get much done while caring for a sick one year old, whereas the chances are better if the sick kid is six or so.

        This means that one team mate having children who are ill often, and maybe also is sick themselves more often than most, does take a toll on the team. I’ve had to have discussions with one team member about whether she could not default to always be the parent who stays home at least the first days, and we did see more of her in the office after that.

      2. Bagpuss*

        In the UK, there is a legal right to take time off for family and dependants, which allows you to have (unpaid) time off for emergencies – so if you have a child (or other dependant) who is sick it would cover leaving work / not coming in, while you make alternative arrangements such as booking PTO or arranging alternative care.

    2. CityMouse*

      My office requires child care during work at home, but for sick days and snow days, most bosses are okay with someone working a few hours while the kid is asleep or occupied so they don’t have to claim as much leave or use as many sick hours. It wouldn’t be an “okay all the time” thing but we try to be flexible.

      1. Cobol*

        It also depends on the age of the child (apologies if this is in the podcast. I can’t download at work). An elementary school aged kid can’t stay home by themselves, but won’t interfere with the parent working save for a few 5 minute breaks.

      2. Safetykats*

        This. I’m more than a little bothered by the concept of “I’m working at home because I don’t have childcare,”‘or “I’m working at home because I have a sick child.” There is really no way you can put in a full work day while also looking after a young child. If the issue is that you have an older child home sick, who might need a little help sporadically throughout the day, that works. If you’re trying to work while caring for a 2yr old, that doesn’t. If you need the day off because of childcare issues, you should get it. If you’re going to be paid for working from home, you should really be working, and the expectations should be that you are essentially as productive as you would be in the office.

    3. Luna*

      Yes, I agree. The policy should be clear, consistent, and in writing.

      It’s not unreasonable to require at least a few days notice to work from home, and your employee really shouldn’t be using work from home days as a substitute for sick days (when her kid is sick) or as a substitute for hiring her own childcare (when her husband is away). I’m assuming your company also has PTO time to use for those issues. It sounds like this employee is misusing the work from home benefit.

    4. Legal Beagle*

      Yep. LW needs to recognize that this IS already a problem. If coworkers are saying she’s unreliable, it’s impacting their work, and (perhaps even more importantly) their morale. This employee is essentially getting a perk – frequent WFH on short notice – that other employees don’t get. And she’s under-performing! If I were her coworker, I’d be seriously annoyed that management had not cracked down on this. The no-policy policy is not working.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        No she’s not. The other employees could do exactly what she is doing. I hate it when someone is resented for doing something anyone could if they wanted to. She is hardly getting a perk since it is reflecting so badly on her. Everyone’s life is different.

  4. Yvette*

    I love the “Make the implicit, explicit”. No one should have to be a mind reader.

    The working from home do to childcare issues should be a non-issue. Most companies make it very clear that working from home is NOT a substitute for day care. (Unless we are talking about older, self-sufficient children who are just too young to be left without an adult presence in the home.) With regards to the instances where she is deciding from the last minute is it possible that if she mentions it and the reason why you will say she can’t? (The whole better to beg forgiveness than ask permission kind of thing.)
    As far as colleagues thinking she is out when she is working from home, it would probably be a good idea if everyone who works from home shoots out a group email stating that the are working from home that day.

    1. Poppy Weasel*

      I took that to mean that perhaps she needed to work from home to be able to drop the kid off/pick the kid up. Like those were normally the spouse’s duties, but since he’s traveling, she now has to do it.

        1. Poppy Weasel*

          Well, if your work day starts at 9 and it’s an hour away, but you can’t drop the kid off until 9:30, that means you’re not getting into work until 10:30, and then you have to pick the kid up at 5, so you’d have to leave at 4, or even earlier to beat traffic… sometimes it makes more sense to just work from home.

          1. Luna*

            But if this is happening so frequently that the employee is taking off time every week, then the burden is on the employee to find a different daycare, or some other solution. If it was less frequent that would be different, but clearly her current childcare arrangements do not work with her job.

            Part of the issue does sound like the OP hasn’t yet been as explicit as she should be, but employees should also have some awareness of how often others in the office are using this policy.

            1. Natalie*

              The letter writer said there have been a bunch of emergencies, not that they have all been childcare related.

              1. Natalie*

                Oops, missed the planned coverage problem. Okay, half of them have been emergencies, but not all childcare related.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              If the policy at the moment is that it’s up to the employee when they work from home, they would have no reason to think that they haven’t found a perfectly reasonable solution.

          2. Teapot Tester*

            There’s also school-aged kids who need to be dropped off/picked up. My son’s school day is 8:40 to 3:40. If you have a long commute, it makes a lot more sense to work from home.

            1. Temperance*

              If it’s an issue, though, they can enroll the kid in before care or after care or use the local bus system.

              1. Kiki*

                That may not be an option, though. My hometown only provided school bus service if the child lived more than 20 miles from the school, and there was no local bus or public transportation. Our schools also did not have before care. There was after care but it ended promptly at 5:00. I remember having to wait on the curb outside the school a few times when my mom had to work late.

                1. hermit crab*

                  Wow! I agree with Nan, that seems extreme (though admittedly I’m from the East Coast where things are relatively close together). My hometown’s school district is only about 25 square miles in total, and I think the bus eligibility distance is a mile or two.

        2. Yvette*

          It might not require a whole day, however not everyone works in a location close enough to where that live to make it convenient to do that.

        3. Lynca*

          I can see where working from home would make that easier if you have a long commute or long hours. I work 10 hour days on my scheduled days and my commute is 45 mins to an hour each way.

  5. Little Bean*

    For the part of the problem where people are stopping by, not seeing her and assuming she’s out, could you ask her to implement a system? For example, on days she’s going to work from home, she could put a little sign out that says “Working from home today – call me at XXX” (or whatever is the best way for people to reach her while she’s at home). I have an agreement with my workplace that I’ll be available via our internal chat system all day when I’m working from home – I just change my status to say “WFH”. This also kind of requires her to plan at least a day in advance so that she remembers to put the sign out.

    1. Luna*

      If the company uses Outlook the Op could create a group calendar for the staff to share, so they can enter any work from home days & vacation days on the calendar. We used that at OldJob and it was great.

    2. Heat's Kitchen*

      We have a coworker who has a sign. I appreciate it as she’s one I would drop by to talk to, not usually look at Outlook and setup a meeting with her. The OOO message is important too!

    3. hermit crab*

      She could also ask someone to put a note on her desk. My cube-mate and I always used to do that for each other if one of us was going to be out unexpectedly.

      To the larger point – many people in my office will decide at the last minute to work from home if it looks like they won’t have any meetings (or if they decide to take calls from home in the morning and then come in late, or whatever). It works fine because if you are not going to be in the office for whatever reason, you: (1) send an email around to the people you expect to interact with that day, including any special instructions like “I have to meet the roofer at noon but otherwise please call my cell”; (2) set your status appropriately in our chat system; and (3) commit to being super-duper responsive by phone/email/chat. It works out fine! But these expectations are specifically communicated to new hires, which I think is key.

  6. CatCat*

    I really enjoy how Alison takes things apart to identify the real problems to be addressed. It seems like a lot of advice around here involves, “But have you clearly and specifically told the person?” Often, no! But it also can be so hard to get out of our own head space on what we know and assume others must know to. It’s hard to develop a strategy and approach when you’re kind of stuck there.

    So helpful to hear a discussion fleshing these things out. The caller sounded like a great manager who now has the tools to address the issue and set up her employee for success.

  7. Drew*

    I won’t be able to listen to this until later, but I REALLY like the question and the OP’s intent not to be punitive but to address a small problem before it becomes a larger one. As much fun as the outrageous questions are (please don’t stop posting them!), it’s good to see more relatable content that can be applied by many managers.

  8. CityMouse*

    I think you definitely need to have clearer standards. From the title I would have guessed someone was working from home a lot more than 6 days a month, that seems minimal to me based on my experiences. Employee has no way of knowing what your expectations are without you stating them: no one will inherently know one a week is too much as that is standard a lot of places.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      This. I negotiated 1-2 WFH days per week, with most weeks just 1 WFH and the specific days being fairly flexible. That was fine for most of my managers (I had a new manager every 9 months on average) for over seven years – we talked about it up front and I was clear about doing whatever I needed to to make it work for the manager/team.

      My last manager was the only one who eventually wanted more heads-up on WFH days and he handled that by assigning our team lead to ask me to mark my calendar or let him (the lead) know, rather than talking to me directly. Last manager was also the one who graded me down on my annual review for unspecified reasons (he’d only been my manager for maybe 5 months at that time). He even said my performance was fine/meets expectations and had no suggestions for improvement, just somehow everyone else was performing better than me, when previously I was one of the top performers for every other manager. That move put me at risk of the layoff, which then happened a month later. I was pretty disgusted with that turn of events and didn’t protest it, because that would have meant possibly staying longer under a manager who clearly didn’t want me or my WFH habit or whatever his issue with me was.

      TL; DR: Don’t be that manager, the one who doesn’t like the current situation but doesn’t give the employee the chance to address things. If you want to reduce WFH for that employee and have her accomplish more work, make clear what the expectations are.

      1. Darury*

        Wanderer, I can sympathize with the “mark down review\layoff” combination. I had that happen at my last full-time position. No actual comments on where I didn’t meet the requirements, just downgraded review, which had already been written by my former manager for the majority of the year (think 9 months with Mgr 1, 3 months with Mgr 2). He apparently did that to everyone on the team with no explanation. Of course, Mgr 2 was let go shortly after that and many of us were let go a few months later.

      2. JM60*

        I love that at my company, everyone works from home on all Tuesdays and Fridays (with a few rare exceptions per year if a customer is visiting). Not only is it a huge perk to cut down on weekly commute by 40%, but it also solves most of the issues that might arise from working from home being the exception rather than the norm. I don’t need to give my manager advanced notice that I’ll be working from home on Friday; She already knows I’ll be working from home. No one is going to walk by my desk on a Tuesdays or Friday and think I’m missing work. And because working from home is the norm at my company, it’s easy to cut down on the transmission of disease, because we’re already use to working remotely. Sending an email out saying, “Have a cold – WFH” usually isn’t a problem.

        Regularly working from home is such a big perk that I have a hard time understanding why more software companies don’t regularly do it as a matter of course. For this reason, it would probably require at least a 50% increase in compensation for a company without this perk to convince me to leave my current job to work for them instead.

    2. Adereterial*

      Definitely this. Being out 1-2 days a week doesn’t translate to ‘not in very often’. She’s ‘in’ more than she is ‘out’! Is she generally unavailable when she is ‘in’? Long breaks, disappears from her desk a lot?

      You need to talk to her if it’s a problem – don’t assume she knows and is doing it anyway.

      1. Clare*

        I somewhat disagree, there is probably at least some awareness of how often others in the group are taking work from home days themselves, so the employee likely knows that her behavior is out of the norm compared to others in the group.

        1. hbc*

          I’m uncomfortable using “out of the norm” as the standard where employees are supposed to notice and change their behavior, especially in a group so small. If I happened to assemble a team of early birds, that doesn’t mean I need the night owl to start coming in at 6:30am like the rest of the team. I wouldn’t want my employee not to use their sick time just because most of us have awesome immune systems, or to buy a new wardrobe because the majority like to dress up when we’ve got a casual policy.

          I mean, if the employee was the one asking about it because she was getting strange vibes, the advice would be to ask her manager or adjust more to the other employees. But it should definitely not be “you should have known to stay within 25% of what your coworkers do no matter what the policy says.”

          1. Clare*

            In this situation I don’t think working from home is the same as sick time or daily work schedules. The OP says her group is “a small team that requires a lot of “face time” with senior leaders, but I try to be as flexible as possible.” To me it seems pretty clear that for this group the work from home benefit is meant to be a nice option to use every now and then, not a regular weekly occurrence.

            1. LBK*

              The OP says she typically uses it every other week, which is pretty regularly. It’s not like everyone else is only working from home once every 3 months.

          2. Girl friday*

            In a way I agree with you because it would be very difficult to know you’re doing the wrong thing if you’ve established a routine that includes not being there without realizing that everyone else is there and no one’s told you. I also agree that it must be a poorly-written policy for them to have so much trouble with her and her still be within the norm. It sounds too squishy to be on a performance review to me, and actually it sounds like the co-workers, the policy, and the employee could all be realigned on this issue.

        2. CatsOnAKeyboard*

          But outside of the norm doesn’t mean unacceptable or a problem. Knowing someone else is only working from home 2 days a month doesn’t tell me that I can’t work from home more, it tells me that’s how many they want to work from home. Some people focus better in the office or their workstyle/workload/work planning style makes them want to be in more. And that’s what I’d assume, if there didn’t seem to be a problem with my more extensive work-from-home days, particularly in the absence of any pushback from my boss or, I assume, hearing any grumblings from the others!

        3. LBK*

          The rule is the rule, and right now she’s not breaking it. If the “norm” is actually the rule, then make that the rule. It’s like companies that have unlimited vacation time but scold you if you take more than 2 weeks – is it unlimited, or is it 2 weeks? Don’t pretend the policy is “as you see fit” but then get mad when someone’s version of that is different than yours.

          1. THIS*

            THIS. You just put into words what I wanted to say in a much more articulate way. I have witness the following situation in just about every place I have ever worked: the organization has a policy, one or more employees follows the policy but in a different way than the majority (thankfully never me), and management gets frustrated or grumbles behind the employees’ back(s). Managers can’t expect employees to be mind readers. Sometimes what is “normal” or “obvious” to one person doesn’t even occur to another. It doesn’t make them a bad employee. It just means that the manager’s assumptions are way off.

            1. Betsy*

              I agree. I work from home whenever I feel like it. It’s probably the main perk of the job. I’m in at some point four days a week, but I’m not there for the full day. If people suddenly decided I couldn’t have this perk just because some of my colleagues are in all day, every day, I’d be mad. We all have the same workload and all get our work done.
              *Disclaimer, I haven’t listened to the podcast as I’m waiting for the transcript ( I’m a fast reader and have a poor attention span).

          2. KarenT*

            Exactly! If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?

          3. Clare*

            eh, I think it’s more equivalent to a company that has free food as a perk, and that one employee who decides that means they can hoard an excessive amount. Sure, technically they are not breaking any rules. But this is where that phrase about the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law comes into play. OP says her group is “a small team that requires a lot of “face time” with senior leaders, but I try to be as flexible as possible.” That doesn’t mean work from home whenever you want, as often as you want. OP is trying to do a nice thing for her reports, that no one else in the company gets, and this one employee is taking advantage.

            1. Dan*

              But the OP is using qualitative words, expecting people to know what they mean quantitatively.

              Based on that phrasing, I have no idea whether said employee is taking advantage. Quite a few of us on this thread think the OP’s expectations don’t match her statements, which pretty much means the line isn’t clear.

              At my company, I *never* see the senior leaders. I don’t know who they are or what they look like. If you were to ask me my definition of “a lot of facetime”, I’d say once a week or so, which certainly allows for WFH 1-2 times a week. OP didn’t mention that the employee was actually missing out on face-time meetings. (And my experience with “senior leaders” is that meetings are scheduled ahead of time.)

            2. LBK*

              But I don’t think 6 days in a month violates even the spirit of the law as it’s stated. If it does, the OP needs to stop describing the policy as “flexible” and setting the standard as “it’s up to the employee, they just have to let me know” – I think 1-2 times a week is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of a policy that vague. I would agree with you more if the policy were something like “working from home is fine as needed but the default is that you should be in the office,” and the employee were somehow finding some reason she needed to stay home once a week.

              I’m with you that “well the rule didn’t say I couldn’t!” is a bad justification for doing something, but I also think the company should be more self-aware of how a reasonable person would interpret the rule and if their expectation differs significantly, they need to make the rule more explicit.

        4. Tuxedo Cat*

          It depends on a lot of factors as to whether the employee would know. For example, I had a job that meant I was often away twice a month for multiple days. Sometimes, I was in the office but had meetings elsewhere on campus (this is academia) so unless they were there early or late, they wouldn’t have seen me.

        5. Adereterial*

          Yeah… no. The ‘norm’ isn’t an automatic rule, and she’s not doing anything wrong by doing something different in the presence of ambiguous policies and the absence of any feedback that what she’s doing isn’t acceptable.

    3. kb*

      Yeah, there are some unwritten rules to societal conduct that shouldn’t need to be explicitly clarified (see sending nudes from work), but the acceptable number of wfh days is not one of them. It sounds like issues with organization are compounding the wfh matter for this employee, so I think it’s fair to bring that all up together.

    4. Former Retail Manager*

      I had the same reaction. 6 days seems very minimal to me. In my office we have the opposite scenario…some folks only come into the office 1 day per week. If the company has a chat type software (Skype, etc), perhaps the perception of the employee being unavailable could be remedied with a message such as “WFH – Contact me via e-mail or @ Cell #.” If so such feature exists, and the employee needs to be present in person, perhaps asking her to try and schedule her WFH day on the same day(s) each week would be helpful and make that schedule known. If employee is forced to have a consistent schedule, I think OP may find that there are fewer unplanned WFH situations.

      Also, I really don’t see WFH one day per week being the primary reason that an employee would fall behind on work or have to cut it close on deadlines unless the employee is overloaded to begin with, which it doesn’t sound like is the case. Might be worth giving the employee details on how long OP thinks assignments should be taking versus how long the employee is taking to see why it’s taking this person longer than others.

      1. CityMouse*

        I am actually more efficient on clearing my work out when I work from home. The office is more social and people come by to bounce work ideas off me.

      2. JessaB*

        That’s the one thing I do not get. Why is the presumption if the worker is not there NOT that they’re working from home contact them there in the first place? I mean if you allow WFH, why are people going nuts if the worker isn’t there? That alone makes no sense. If I see someone isn’t there, I figure OH WFH and I Skype or Slack or IM or whatever communication we use.

    5. LBK*

      Totally agreed, I was expecting someone who’s only coming into the office 6 days a month, not the other way around.

      FWIW, the way she’s doing this isn’t out of sync with how WFH operates in my office; there isn’t generally an expectation that you give the manager a heads up if you’re going to stay home. I try to if I know ahead of time, eg if I have a doctor’s appointment or I need to stay home for a delivery or something, but it’s more a courtesy than a requirement. The whole idea of working from home is that it shouldn’t be any different in terms of responsiveness, availability, productivity, etc. so someone staying home unexpectedly isn’t a big deal, because part of the agreement is that it can’t be disruptive to getting work done.

      If people are getting confused when she’s not at her desk and assuming she’s out of the office, that sounds like a cultural problem – your company allows people to work from home, so it shouldn’t be strange or confusing to people when someone actually does it. That most of the managers don’t allow their employees to WFH or that most employees don’t take advantage of being allowed to do so is their problem, not this employee’s, and she shouldn’t be forced to be in the office just because her colleagues are struggling with object permanence.

      1. the_scientist*

        I am laughing about colleagues not understanding object permanence but I am also confused as to why people are so confused. Do they truly expect people to be at their desks 100% of the workday? What happens when you have to go to the bathroom, or grab lunch?

        If this is a workplace that technically allows work from home but isn’t really set up to handle it from a technology perspective, that is an entirely separate issue but assuming that isn’t the case…..this is really not a difficult problem to solve. Just message her on Skype/Slack/other! Personally, I think it’s polite to ask before popping by a coworker’s desk, anyway.

        1. Yorick*

          You can often tell from someone’s desk whether they’ve stepped away for a minute or aren’t in.

      2. Betsy*

        I honestly think co-workers can be rude and petty sometimes if they perceive someone’s receiving an unfair advantage (even if they’re not). Some people still consider working from home as ‘slacking off’. I find sometimes I’m unproductive at home, and sometimes I’m unproductive in my office, and same with productive days. Because I work flexibly, I might get heaps done on Sunday, but that probably wouldn’t count for people who have a very rigid 9-5+ at your desk mindset. They’d probably just notice that I was only in for half a day on Thursday and assume I’m a bit lazy.

  9. Amelia*

    I work from home 0-2 days per week. And I feel the opposite about planning ahead.
    Years ago, I used to block off dates as “home office days” in advance. But it often didn’t work out. My schedule right now may look clear for March 29th but on March 27th a client meeting or event may come up.

    Now I usually decide on my home office days, the day before. Then I can easily assess “do I need to be in the office today or not?” And if there are no meetings or events, I take it as a home office day. And sometimes that will change even early that morning.

    I think it’s less about planning ahead and more about prioritizing most things above a home office day. And in the absence of anything important that requires your presence in the office, having one.

    But that may be specific to my office.

    1. Little Bean*

      Agreed. I theoretically have a regular schedule where I work from home one day a week. But things change all the time – a meeting comes up on that day, or it would be more convenient for me to home a different day so I can go straight to something after work. I often decide this at the last minute and without notifying my boss – he’s very hands off, we work in different buildings, and I literally don’t even ever see him unless we have a meeting scheduled. I’ve even switched my WFH days based on waking up in the morning and checking the traffic. But I also work in a job where almost no one is ever looking for me, and even if they were and couldn’t find me, they’d just email and I’d reply right back.

    2. Florida*

      Also, Alison and the caller came to the conclusion that the problem wasn’t the last-minute-ness of the decision. It was that the employee was generally unorganized and unresponsive, and this was one just more instance of that.

      So if you are generally organized, responsive, etc., which I assume you are, then deciding a day in advance is not a big deal. There are many times where I do exactly what you do.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      My husband works from home 2-3 days a week, and sometimes his planned schedule for the week changes at 8AM on Monday morning. (This can be frustrating when I’m trying to plan my week.) Sometimes he will plan to work from home a certain day, but then a meeting is scheduled he needs to be in. Sometimes he’ll intend to go in, but the person he’s supposed to meet with can’t make it, so there’s no reason for him to be in the office. We don’t have kids at the moment, so if he needs to change his schedule at the last minute, it’s not a huge hassle for us.

      This was all negotiated before he started the job (and he’s in tech, so it’s a generally accepted way of doing things there), and he communicates with a lot of his team and others in the company through Slack and email anyway (and a bunch of his team is remote) so the “can’t find you!!!” issue is nonexistent.

    4. Breda*

      I’ve been doing WFH every Friday for the past nine months, and it’s working out great. I know when it’s happening, my boss knows when it’s happening, very little actually happens on Fridays in our business, and it gives me a designated time to focus on the stuff I can’t really do in the office – which also means I know I need to finish up office-required stuff before then. I know having it scheduled isn’t exactly “flexible,” but maybe planning one a week and letting her reschedule (but not add to) it if necessary would work?

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday at 3 so after I texted my boss and said I’m just gonna go home and work from there a couple hours. Then while I was sitting there comfortable in my kitchen in my sweatpants, plowing through my document, I checked my calendar and saw I had no meetings the next day so I messaged her and said I’d like to work from home the next day just for the heck of it.

      I think my boss actually wants me to work from home more though, because she is remote and knows I was worried about that when I took a position on her team, so I think she figures if I work from home more I’ll see the fact that she is remote as a perk. I don’t like to do it too often though because sometimes I feel more effective in the office. It depends on what I’m currently working on.

  10. CanadianEngineerLibrarian*

    I don’t think 6 times a month is a lot, but in this company it obviously is. A sign on the door, an “out of office” notice email, voice mail saying she is working from home, can all help.

    1. Kinder gentler manager*

      6 times a week definitely doesn’t seem like a lot. Although I am admittedly a “I don’t care as much about where and when the work gets done as long as it is getting done” kind of manager.

  11. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I’m with the people saying, listen to Allison and determine what the problem is. If she did great work and people could count on her, you wouldn’t notice she worked from home because there would be minimal interruption to the daily flow of business.
    But she’s not above average, she’s not reliable, and in your own words, maybe underperforming on purpose by creating extensive time frames for projects.
    This is so not about working from home.
    But that may eliminate some issues.
    Or not.
    She may come to the office and talk to people all day and complain about how much work she has to do, but the commute, blah blah blah.
    This person needs work guidelines and oversight at present. Sorry.

    1. CatsOnAKeyboard*

      On the podcast during Alison’s questioning, the OP says that her employee’s work product is great, she’s engaged and that she thinks the employee’s on the cusp of being ready for the next level, though! And that she only noticed how much the employee worked from home when she happened to look at their text messages and saw how many of the requests were for WFH days. So I think this is 90% perception and worry rather than legitimate issues.

      Although I agree that having structure around how WFH days are requested/allocated makes sense both in general and in this specific situation.

      1. the_scientist*

        I’m confused- her work product is great and she’s really engaged but she might be padding timelines? I don’t know, those things don’t really mesh for me. Maybe she just provides a realistic estimate of how long it takes to create a quality product while other people over-promise and under-deliver.

        1. CatsOnAKeyboard*

          That was my sense! I didn’t understand where the ‘padded timelines’ was coming from at all, other than it was just a random worry that the manager had, but that she admitted she had zero evidence for! Alison coached her to delve into that concern and ask the employee to break down what’s on her plate/how long different sections would take, which is obviously great advice (and to do so with the framing of ‘take you to the next level’)

        2. JessaB*

          Or maybe one of the people is a superstar who can do 4 hours of work in 2 hours and everyone is being held to that standard. I think the OP needs to figure out what a reasonable timeline is, independent of what they think of the employee with the potential issue.

          The planning issue on the other hand should be dealt with. There’s no reason unless the husband is sent off without notice, that the employee should be able to deal with that by giving advance notice.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, the OP also says the employee needs better project management skills, and she says she gets feedback that the person is disorganized and unreliable. So I think there are some legit problems here.

        1. CatsOnAKeyboard*

          What I wonder is if there was something we didn’t get – like the last minute WFH days caused her to push/reschedule meetings? That would make sense with the ‘lots of facetime’ part and be a big issue for me and definitely lead to the impression that she’s disorganized and unreliable even though her actual work product is good. But that would be an fairly easy specific thing to address.

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Oh wow, that’s pretty much the opposite of the letter.
        Sounds like it’s that the manager sees successful, on time output and is surprised by contradictory feedback from peers.

          1. JamieS*

            Maybe I’ll have to relisten. The only problem I actually heard was the perception she’s not available (working that day) when she actually is. The other possible problem was she’s disorganized but listening to the conversation it didn’t sound like she’s actually disorganized with the work itself but she’s being perceived that way because of the perception she’s not working when she is. The last minute WFH notices didn’t strike me as disorganization so much as a misunderstanding of what OP expects as far as WFH notice.

            Everything else struck me as something that IDK is even a plausible possible problem (idea she’s pushing timelines back but no reasoning given for that thought other than she WFH) or things that aren’t a problem but might possibly at some point become a problem maybe.

            Basically seemed there wasn’t so much a problem with the employee WFH frequency but problems with other people’s misperceptions. Although that’s assuming OP didn’t see a sharp disparity in her actual performance and what’s expected which it doesn’t sound like OP did.

  12. Murphy*

    I’m not sure that working from home is really the problem. (I had thought it would be a lot more often than 6x a month, but if that’s unusually high for your team, then I get it.) I think the disorganization, and the unreliability are leading to not giving notice about working from home, when notice could have been given. I’d definitely focus more on that.

  13. nonymous*

    I volunteer at a nonprofit and during the monthly meetings (which included staff and volunteer-leaders) we would open up by going around the table and talking about what else was going on in life. No judgement, and not too much detail, but part time staff would talk about how it was crunch time at their other job or someone might mention that they were starting some activity that meant they needed to leave on time. It was a good time to bring up a vacation heads up or if someone was willing to share status update on caregiving duties (e.g. elderly relative has moved to hospice, teenager passed driver’s exam). Sometimes people would talk about a movie or book or new restaurant, so it didn’t always have to be personal disclosure. In my workplace, we do a much less formal check in at the beginning of our weekly team meetings, but the topics are consistent between the two environments.

    Some people are just really bad at thinking ahead this way, and it’s unclear to me where the LW stands on being willing to manage this for her staff. I’m not suggesting that a manager sit down and help the staff member fill out their calendar on a daily basis, but it’s definitely a learning opportunity for the staff to see that their peers are chatting up availability a week or more before it impacts their work. The phrase I hear in pet and child training is “set them up for success”. So if the manager chose to implement some kind of notification deadline (which could punish a scatterbrained individual), it’s nice to couple that with social cues that will lead the employee to naturally disclose (which the manager can praise her employee for). Not necessary, but nice. As a bonus, it’s probably the lowest key yet effective team-building exercise I’ve seen.

    1. MsSolo*

      We used to have Trivia, Triumph, Trauma at the start of meetings, which was fun (you didn’t have to provide all three). There was a lot of commiseration between people renovating bits of their houses, and praise for each other’s achievements, and sharing facts gleaned from personal hobbies. It meant, as you say, you got a sense of who had holidays coming up, who’d be working from home because they ghad builders in, and what cross team projects were going on. New Manager has swapped it out for more generic ice breakers, which is kind of a shame. I don’t care if L would pick Joan of Arc as her favourite historic figure, I want to know about how her battle against the illegal parking ticket is going! I can see how coming from outside it might have felt a bit cliquey, especially the aforementioned ticket which was an 18 month saga, but it also helped you get to know colleagues really quickly.

  14. Pam*

    My job doesn’t generally allow WFH, but my boss was willing to let me use it for two days this week. My sister had surgery, so needs someone around, but not constant care..

  15. the_scientist*

    6 days a month is…….not a lot, for a workplace that claims to be “flexible?” I’m not doubting the assessment that a lot of face time is required, but it sounds like there may be different understandings of what “flexible” actually means, an issue that could be resolved by having an actual policy.

    For reference, I recently moved to a different city (partner and I bought a house in a slightly more affordable locale) so now I have a >1 hour each way commute. That’s not super unusual for my area (commutes within the city can take over an hour) but since my company has a clear work from home policy I’m able to work from home 2 days per week with my manager’s approval. It’s really a non issue. We use Skype, so I can call in to meetings, and I work at home on a consistent schedule so my team knows when to expect me in the office. If anything, I think I’ve become more productive since I switched to this new schedule because I find I can really focus at home, and I’m not completely exhausted from doing a grueling commute 5 days a week.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah, it’s pretty minimal. I think the issues aren’t actually the WFH – it’s other performance issues but this is a concrete thing to hang it on.

      1. the_scientist*

        I agree with this assessment. I also wonder if the last-minute/shifting nature of the WFH is bothering the OP, which is why she is hanging on to WFH as the issue. That is a totally legitimate concern, but also one that is really easy to fix.

    2. Oxford Coma*

      Same here. I read “a lot” and expected to see 3+ times per week. 6 times per month is nothing, and IMO the OP’s company does not earn the tag “flexible” for that level of frequency.

    3. MLB*

      Agree on all points. I also WFH twice a week (and other days as needed). My manager is very flexible and knows that I get my work done and am available when needed.

      Manager needs to define what she expects from the employee because clearly they’re on different pages, and based on the letter (I haven’t listened to the podcast) it sounds like the issue is less about her working from home, but more about her getting her job done.

    4. bonkerballs*

      I think the word flexible is misleading. They’re not saying they have a flexible, anything goes type WFH policy. They’re saying that actually they really need people in the office, but can sometimes be accommodating of special circumstances. At least that’s what I’m getting from the questions – I haven’t actually listened to the podcast yet.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Yeah, I think it’s in the context of the office generally. It sounds like the LW’s team is the only one that allows working from home at all.

      2. myswtghst*

        Yes, thank you. I think the “6 WFH days in a month” is kind of a red herring, as it may not be “a lot” in many offices, but clearly is too much in OP’s workplace (especially when ~half of them are unplanned).

    5. Amphian*

      I was floored whens she thought 6 days a month was a lot. They don’t really have “flexibility”. There are obviously jobs where you need to be on site to do any work (construction worker, nurse, janitor, cook, etc.) and jobs where you could do the work from anywhere, but the company prefers face to face, which is still fairly normal in some industries.

      It sounds like her issues are not really with the work from home but with the employee, and that she and her company might be a little out of touch with the rest of the work world, unless they are in a very conservative industry. If the employee has issues, then maybe work from home isn’t for her, but I think the boss is also kind of unaware of how many modern workplaces operate, so it’s hard to tell what is really going on. She definitely should address things like the disorganization, work volume, and the times when the employee knew she would need to work from home on a particular day. There is no reason not to let people know in advance if you know.

      That said, I routinely see “working from home today” emails from the people who do come into the office regularly (including one this morning), and three people on my team are 100% work from home (including me). That’s more flexible than most companies, but my last company was far more conservative (a combination of industry and being a three decade old company), and they encouraged everyone to work from home 2 – 3 days per week (usually on a fixed schedule).

  16. Margery*

    If other staff are noting it – and they aren’t allowed to WFH I’d be concerned that the privilege could be lost for the rest of the team.

    1. LBK*

      But it’s the company policy that it’s up to a manager’s discretion whether they allow their employees to WFH or not. It shouldn’t be a surprise to them that some people are allowed to WFH and some aren’t – if they have a problem with not being allowed to WFH, they can speak to their own manager. Don’t strip someone else’s perks just because you don’t get them.

  17. Allison*

    This is timely for me! I’ve been working from home a lot recently, some of it has been due to illness and some due to bad weather (our region got three bad storms in two weeks), and in one instance I was erring on the side of caution because we were expecting a bad storm but didn’t know when exactly it would hit, and the day was fine while the storm didn’t get bad until after rush hour, so I would have had no problem getting in or going home. I swear I don’t prefer it, I have no problem being in the office five days a week and I actually like the routine, plus being in the office puts me in a better “work mode” than being at home.

    I’ve been doing good work with many recent “wins,” I’m responsive via email and my boss hasn’t told me I’m working from home too much, but sometimes I worry it’s becoming a problem that’s starting to bother her. Should I bring it up with her or wait for her to say something? We are having a quarterly touch-base in a couple weeks.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      If you worry about it, why not ask her? Maybe not framed as a “is this a problem” kind of discussion, but just acknowledging that you get that you’ve been doing lot of it lately, maybe that you’ve appreciated the possibility to do so (if that’s the case), and that you don’t mind either way.

      Then see what she says. Maybe she doesn’t mind at all, but I bet she’ll be happy you checked with her.

  18. CatsOnAKeyboard*

    My first thought is 2 days a month is not a flexible WFH policy at all. It may be what the organization needs if facetime really does have to be facetime, but it’s really a ‘we expect you to be in the office, but make occasional exceptions’ policy. Which is fine, but like Alison said, that needs to explicitly stated.

    It’s also weird – and possibly the weirdest thing to me – that people would go to her desk and the default assumption is she’s out of the office if she’s not there and not in a meeting, at lunch, grabbing a cup of coffee, running to the restroom … I do think maybe having something she puts on her desk that says ‘call/email me’ might help that, but I also think it’s a very odd cultural issue at the company if it’s really happening. People do leave their desks sometimes! I am wondering if this assumption is actually happening or just another worry that the OP has about what could be happening.

    The other thing I noticed is that when listening to the podcast, 90% of the issues seem to be in the OPs head and not actually a problem. She didn’t even realize how much the employee was WFH until she happened to see how many text messages she got about it, so I am not sure it actually had a legitimate impact on work. And in the podcast, she describes the employee as engaged, her work product as great and that she thinks she might be ready for the next level. This is is not the description of a mediocre employee. And she worries that the timelines may be padded – but obviously not enough to make it a red flag that they’re obviously padded. It might be that her great work is because she takes a little extra time and attention and uses that extra time wisely. It might be that they are too long because she’s been coached elsewhere that it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than risk missing deadlines (and if these deadlines aren’t causing an issue and the work is getting done, IS it a problem? If it is, have the frank discussion about trying to cut off 10% or whatever from them, but otherwise, I’d let it go and suggest just continuing to increase the workload that you wanted, making sure deadlines across the board aren’t being negatively impacted.)

    The only thing I think is really an issue is the employee forgetting to do some non-routine tasks. Unfortunately, we didn’t delve very deeply into that on the podcast, other than to say that she’s shown improvement on organization for the routine tasks. That would be what I would suggest get focused on, because it’s the one thing that actually feels like it needs improvement. Maybe it’s a matter of getting better job aids/documentation/checklists for the non-routine stuff (and maybe that should be part of the employee’s job, to create them for herself) but I think the WFH thing is a red herring.

    1. I'll say it*

      I agree! I get so aggravated with this old-fashioned attitude toward remote working. It’s not right for every industry and company, sure – but if you have a policy and you say it’s flexible, then be realistic. And yes, so much of the caller’s issues were in her own mind! This negative attitude toward remote work is tiring. I mean, if you don’t realize until you’re looking at texts…then it wasn’t an issue.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think that’s fair to the caller, who struck me as a thoughtful and supportive manager with legitimate concerns about this employee’s disorganization and the way she’s being perceived.

    2. LBK*

      I agree it’s weird that people just assume she’s out if she’s not at her desk – even if they can see that her laptop isn’t at the dock or her coat isn’t hung up or what have you, this is a company that allows working from home. It shouldn’t be confusing to people that there is an alternative to in the office or out of the office.

    3. Malibu Stacey*

      I have to disagree that you can’t tell if someone is not in the office vs. away from their desk. Blank PC monitor, no coat (if they live in a cooler climate), no purse can be giveaways.

  19. MommyMD*

    Advise employee she can WAH three days per month and stick to it. My bet is she is staying home when child care falls through or the kids are sick. Three days a month is a generous allotment. If she takes more than that advise her she will have to call off and use her sick time or PTO and if she uses that too much, it’s an attendance issue. When my kids were small three days a month WAH would have been wonderful.

    1. Marley*

      Why be unnecessarily strict?

      It sounds like this new employee has pushed the limits–but the limits also aren’t spelled out, so why not write a policy? Ideally a generous one?

  20. MLB*

    This is similar to the “snow day” issue. You need to be very clear and lay out your expectations for the WFH policy. You say your company is flexible, but then say she works from home 6 times a month like it’s every day – that’s not a whole lot IMO. My manager is at the extreme end of flexible – I WFH 2 days a week, and in the mornings every other week when we have my stepson so I can get him on the bus, as well as random other days for deliveries, service calls, etc. I realize this is a major perk, am very thankful to have this flexibility, and know this wouldn’t work for everyone. But if you’re going to be flexible, then be flexible. If she’s not getting her job done and is unreliable, that’s a separate issue.

  21. MM*

    It’s always weird for me to read things like this, because I work from home 99.8% of the time, so 6 days a month sounds like nothing to me. Of course I understand intellectually that these are two different sets of expectations and conventions, no doubt set up for reasons of differing types of work! I just can’t help stopping and blinking a bit when I see “She works from home too much–6 whole days a month!” when I’m in the office maybe 10 days a year.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t see why we’re debating what is a lot and what isn’t since it depends entirely on the job. WFH is basically not a thing at my job except on the rarest occasions because we mostly work with material that can’t be removed from the office (even though the output is mostly typed on a computer). There are a few things I could do at home but they would require so much advanced planning and preparation that there is almost no point.

      1. MLB*

        Because if your job allows the opportunity to WFH, 6 days is not a lot. Sure certain jobs don’t allow it for different reasons, but clearly this one does. I’ve worked for a manager who claimed to be flexible, yet every time I asked to WFH, made a big deal about it and basically guilted me into coming in. And I was way more productive at home because there was nobody there to distract me. You can’t say you’re flexible when your actions prove otherwise.

        1. myswtghst*

          “Because if your job allows the opportunity to WFH, 6 days is not a lot.”

          This just isn’t a universal statement of fact, though. My job allows the occasional opportunity to WFH, and my boss is pretty flexible when it comes to minor illnesses or bad weather, but 6 days per month would be a lot based on my role and responsibilities, especially if they were 50%+ last minute requests. What is flexible in one environment might not be the same as what would be flexible in another.

      2. myswtghst*

        I agree. It’s a bit frustrating to read so many comments amounting to “6 days a month is nothing! This manager is out of touch!” when there seem to be clear reasons why the team needs to be in the office, and the manager seemed so reasonable and willing to re-examine her potential biases on the podcast.

  22. BuilderBob*

    This all seems strange to me. Every place I’ve worked it’s always been assumed if you weren’t at your desk you were working remotely. Usually PTO required advanced notice and an out of office message with a contract named butt that was all. There’s never been a requirement to give a heads up or a limit on days as long as work was completed. I admit I don’t use mine very much unless there’s bad weather or something going on at home like waiting on the cable guy but others will work from home for weeks at a time or several days a week with no issue. 6 days seems minimal but it sounds like she needs some coaching and the office as a whole needs a policy to let people know when someone is working remotely instead of taking a day off.

    1. Quickbeam*

      At my office, when people see an empty desk they defer to the live person actually in the office. So those of us who work in the office get bombarded with drive by questions, even if we tell the person that Susie is working today, remotely.

      1. cncx*

        this is my issue. my coworker does WFH frequently and while i don’t have an issue with him doing it in principle, that means i can’t focus on my project/deep focus work because i am running interference on the drive-bys. Unfortunately my job is front facing in part so i can’t just wfh to do my project work the way he can. i would really like it if he would just schedule wfh days in stone and be done with it so i could work around it better.

  23. LBK*

    I’m curious now about what it is that drives managers to be averse to codifying expectations. Is it just a general desire to seem easy going, or the appeal of saying you’re flexible? Is it that people don’t know what actions they’ll be uncomfortable with until they run into one? Or is it because they feel a rule like that needs to be very specific and quantifiable, and they’re not comfortable setting explicit limits?

    It seems like all too often managers just hope they’ll get lucky and no one will ever deviate so far from the unwritten standard that they’ll have to address it. I think a lot of this could be remedied by outlining expectations rather than hard-and-fast rules, such as, “I expect that on average people will use 2-4 WFH days a month no questions asked, and consistently using more than that will depend on needs and performance.”

  24. Sketchee*

    I use Stitcher, so if you can get the podcast into their service I’d very much appreciate it!

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I never did get it to work on Google Play (someone suggested in an earlier thread to keep trying), but I found it on TuneIn now!

  25. MissDissplaced*

    Right now, I can work from home whenever I wish, but that wasn’t always the case. Yes, set some boundaries! Is it only Friday or just having set days that makes thr difference? Whatever you decide, thrn they need to hold to that.

  26. Phoenix Programmer*

    I am side eyeing the coworkers tbh. Why aren’t they letting others know when they stop by that she is WFH instead of letting them assume she is out?

    1. Girl friday*

      Or letting her know that she’s missing something in the moment. I mean IM or email at least. That’s why I thought maybe there was an issue between her and her co-workers or some kind of tone-deafness although I hate to suggest it.

  27. Middle Name Jane*

    My small department implemented WFH a couple of years ago, and it’s been really popular. We have rules, though. There are 5 of us that are eligible. We are allowed to WFH 1 day a week, and it has to be the same day each week (I’m on Thursdays). No more than 2 people on the same day. We have to stay logged into the chat system all day and set our status to “Away” on our lunch breaks. Our desk phones have to be forwarded to our company cell phones. We also had to sign a document agreeing to the terms and conditions, which include WFH being taken away if your performance drops.

  28. AnonMinion*

    “Make the implicit, explicit” I LOVE this for so many reasons. I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered if what I am doing is ok and I just tell myself “well until I hear otherwise I will assume it is fine!”.

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