managers still aren’t sure “working from home” means really working

There have always been managers who don’t believe that “working from home” means doing real work. These are the managers who, before the pandemic, would flat-out deny requests to work from home or only begrudgingly approve them for the occasional “good reason,” like waiting at home for the cable guy.

When vast quantities of people were forced to start working from home earlier this year, these managers didn’t have a magical change of heart. Instead, many of them have continued to believe that employees working from home aren’t really working, or will only work if they’re carefully monitored — often in intrusive and insulting ways.

I wrote about these managers over at Slate today. You can read it here.

{ 233 comments… read them below }

  1. Ray Gillette*

    This all sounds so exhausting from a manager’s perspective. I host short (15 minutes or less) morning and afternoon huddles on Zoom for my team so that we catch up on what we’re working on and ask questions in a group setting. I have weekly 1:1 working sessions with each team member where I can help them clear their backlog or work on a tough problem they’ve been struggling with. Why would I do more than that? It’s just creating more work for myself.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      I think your last sentence may hold the key.

      It’s not that individual-contributor employees don’t know how to work from home. It’s that SOME MANAGERS DON’T, and they’re unloading that on those they manage.

      1. Summersun*

        A lot of middle managers have learned during Covid that they’re just not necessary. The micromanaging is desperation to justify their own jobs.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Is that common.

          I’m in middle management and busier than ever – with so much remote work by everyone the coordination roles are more complex.

          1. Summersun*

            In a functional organization, no. But I’ve worked at plenty of places where the middle layer is made up of a bunch of missing stairs that everyone above and below has learned to work around, so they’re just treading water. That’s the type of place where people joke that project management are “professional e-mail forwarders” because they’ve never actually seen it done well.

          2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

            Back at ToxicJob, I had a manager who was probably unnecessary. I honestly have no idea what she did all day. She was gone for a month on vacation and none of her reports noticed any difference. And she sure as hell wasn’t managing; when we told her that we were so overburdened with meetings (sometimes quadruple booked) that didn’t add anything (90 minutes of listening to developers scream at each other, 5 minutes of information relevant to our work), she shrugged and mumble-wumbled, “Yeah, that’s how it is.” I shudder to think how she’d deal with the pandemic situation – probably sending lots of snippy “u there?” instant messages to make it look like she was “managing.”

          3. MsMaryMary*

            I tend to think of this more with executives, but it’s been a long time since I worked somewhere with managers who weren’t also individual contributors. I do work somewhere with a lot of Vice Presidents, so my mind when to execs. But think of the person who seems to always be in the break room when you go in, has lots of hallway and over the cube chats, disappears into someone else’s office or a conference room for long discussions, goes out to lunch everyday… Those folks are not doing well working from home 100%.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I am a manager who manages other managers, and we all have strategic projects on top of their supervisory/staffing responsibilities. My experience has been that most people I want to hire and retain prefer this model to solely people management.

        2. MelonHelen*

          I was going to post this too. I’ve seen it stated a few places now that COVID has potentially threatened the livelihood of a lot of middle management in white collar professions. The most important thing they do is oversee the work of individual contributors, and there’s a lot less of that going on since a bunch of us have been working from home. And if the companies see that they are getting along fine with people at home, then…they are also seeing that sometimes, they don’t need as many middle managers.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I thought the great clearing-out of most middle managers had already happened in the early nineties. I guess companies are about to get even leaner?

            1. Derjungerludendorff*

              I’m not sure, but that was over twenty years and at least one recession ago. Plenty of time for a new group to come in.

            2. Lavender Menace*

              I work in tech and we have a *lot* of middle managers and program/project managers with questionable job descriptions.

            3. GS*

              I’ve seen clearing out of hands-on workers, to be replaced by contractors and more managers to handle all the contract paperwork.

          2. Persephone Underground*

            Funny- in my company it’s kinda the opposite, we’re seeing how crazy important good middle management is to keeping the team on track. I am soooo happy my boss sits in meetings and herds the cats in the other departments to produce a clear, prioritized, doable list of tasks they want done and limits the random “hey drop everything for this thing right now” stuff. No one emails me directly with a new task- it all goes through him first, and then he’s already clarified with them that x project I’m on will have to wait if I get pulled into y right now. And the general coordination stuff is measurably harder remote, from what I can tell. Middle management that *doesn’t* get all that in order so the team can get to the actual work? Yeah, when they’re suddenly being measured more directly by results they may end up looking redundant. But I don’t know how we can tell which kind is more common. Data point: I’m in tech and at a small business.

        3. Lady Heather*

          Reminds me of the book “The Peter Principle”.

          Which is an insightful book as well as a fun read.

      2. Ali G*

        I think some managers don’t really do any work PERIOD and since they can’t put on a show of how busy they are (not) they are trying other ways to make it look like “they have so much work to do.”

        1. Mongrel*

          And there’s only so much time you can spend building Powerpoint slide for agonizingly long pointless meeting that they’ve called

      3. TrainerGirl*

        I’ve worked for managers who hold their own personal bias about teleworking on everyone else. THEY can’t focus and keep on task, so no one else can. THEY would be doing a load of laundry and working in the garden 30 minutes after their start time, so that means that’s what all their employees are doing. Some people don’t want to admit to their weaknesses and assume that it’s everyone’s issue, not just theirs.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree that these extreme measures seem absolutely exhausting. Here is the system I use for “monitoring” remote work: are deadlines being met, are people showing up for meetings/calls on time, and can I get a hold of someone via phone/IM/email in a reasonable amount of time during the business day (and “reasonable” means that people should feel free to take a coffee/lunch break or use the rest room, just as they would in the office, and are not dinged for not responding immediately)?

      I have biweekly meetings with all my direct reports, and they, in turn, hold short weekly meetings with their teams. I have no idea how they’d meet objectives if they were spending half their day micromanaging their teams.

      1. Np*

        This was exactly the philosophy I used both as a report and as a supervisor whilst working from home during Covid. (In my neck of the woods, we’re back at work.)

        Was my report meeting her deadlines? Yes. Was she easily reachable (ie calling me back within a reasonable time frame during business hours but excluding our lunch break, which she was totally entitled to)? Yes. We didn’t do meetings at all, but we spoke on the phone a lot on an ad hoc basis (she initiated them, as we were navigating uncharted waters in some areas of our work). She mentioned both during and after our working from home stint that she loved it and was so much more productive.

        I was one happy supervisor, let me tell you.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          One vocabulary request to make: please avoid saying you are now ‘back at work’ because you WERE at work. You are now back at the office building.

    3. Anonys*

      Yeah it would be creating more work for you as well as everyone else. That’s why all these “wfh home is bad” managers are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. By making employees do ridiculous things like check in way to often and spending hours writing up their progress on little things, they are stifling productivity (and morale), so of course less work gets done.

      My manager has remained very hands off in home office. He’s very busy and we for sure do not speak every day. I actually kinda wish we had a standing 1:1 (though I think weekly would be too much for us). He also would never even wanna know that/when I’ve completed my routine tasks – I just get them done and if I wouldn’t, THEN he would notice and of course on bigger projects or if major problems arise I consult with him.

      The number of standing meetings we have is also exactly the same as before – we have one team meeting a week, which is nice because I see all the colleagues I don’t speak to daily and get caught up on what everyone is working on. I think the biggest change is that I spend a lot time on the phone now talking to people who usually sit pretty much next to me.

    4. Mr. Shark*

      Do you even need to do that much? 2 meetings a day, plus another 1:1 during the week seems like a lot. What is accomplished at the afternoon meeting that can’t be accomplished at the next day’s morning meeting? If your team has any immediate concerns, they should be able to contact you as necessary, not really have to stop what they’re doing for a check-in in the afternoon, I would think.
      Maybe it works perfectly for you, but it seems like a lot to me. Were you doing that amount of huddles in the office, or is this just a WFH thing?

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I would only rarely have anything unique to say if I had daily 15 min meetings, much less twice a day. That sounds like an Agile/scrum thing, which makes sense for collaborative coding projects or similar when everyone does need to know what everyone else is doing/planning/done with. But a weekly or biweekly standing meeting is way more appropriate for my kind of work, and sometimes weekly status update emails are better. As it is, most of my calendar is booked with active working meetings – if I had extra *daily* meetings that were just status updates, even short ones, that would be a morale killer.

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          And even with Agile/scrum, the second daily meeting doesn’t contribute much in my personal experience.
          If an individual contributer has problems, they can usually contact other people themselves. And you don’t need an overview of people’s work and progress every couple of hours.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        The morning huddle and 1:1’s were from the office pre-lockdown. I know more about how our product works than anyone else in the department, so they save their questions on items that are difficult but not time-sensitive for the working sessions.

        The afternoon huddles are the only thing I’ve added and they’re pretty informal and optional. If someone has a call scheduled or something specific they’re working on, they don’t have to show up. It’s the closest we’ve gotten to the kind of informal collaboration that used to happen naturally in the office – the “hey, I’ve been stuck on this thing for the past hour, has anyone seen anything like it before?” kinds of conversation.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Yeah, I was thinking whether that’s a lot is really job/team/company dependent. Some jobs move really fast and do need more check-ins.

        2. Pobody’s Nerfect*

          Two meetings a day every day plus another weekly one still seems like a lot of overkill, whether WFH or in office.

    5. Lavender Menace*

      This is how I feel whenever I see this. As a manager myself it’s hard for me to imagine any manager having the time to adequately manage these things, so to me it all becomes like security theater. I manage six people and I don’t see how I’d be able to simultaneously keep my eye on all of them even if they did have their cameras on all day. Who’s reviewing the periodic screenshots that these spyware programs take? If they take one every 10 minutes that’s potentially 48 screenshots per day, per person, that need to be reviewed. If I’m holding hours-long meetings to check in when am I getting my own work done? When is anyone on my team getting any work done?

  2. Reality Check*

    Insulting is the word for it, all right. Our employer very nearly cut our salaries when we switched to WFH, because they figured we wouldn’t be as productive, so why should we make the same pay? Fortunately they never carried that out, but morale is in the gutter (and we’re back at the office).

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      One of my good friends works for a state agency. If she elects to work from home (nearly of all her work could be done from home), they told her she’d have to take a pay cut.

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          When she told me that, I think it was the closest I’ve ever been to literally seeing red on someone else’s behalf.

          As far as I know, there are no exemptions for medical issues. She is seriously considering taking the pay cut (no reduction in hours or workload) to focus on her safety. We are very much in a BUT TAXPAYER DOLLARS state that believes state employees should have the barest of the bare minimum.

          1. Heather*

            That mentality has always been a head scratcher to me. If you recruit good employees, you have to pay them what they’re worth. If you only have those willing to accept bargain basement salaries, you very well may need more employees to do the same amount of work.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              For the BUT THE TAXPAYER types, not being able to recruit good, qualified employees is actually helpful – it helps them to demonstrate how “broken” and “inefficient” government/government employees are. My spouse works for the fed and we’ve heard every lazy government worker trope there is, particularly since they were on 80% telework and a flex schedule prior to COVID because we have two kids, one of whom has special needs that require a lot of hoop jumping to adequately address.

              I live in the DC area where a lot of very bright people go to work for the federal government and exchange a higher salary for a mediocre salary with a better quality of life and flexibility to be there for their kids. Take away the quality of life and flexibility, and they’re leaving – if life is miserable, they can go be miserable in the private sector and get paid twice as much.

          2. soon*

            Medical issues that rise to the level of needing a reasonable accomodation MUST be an exception. Telework as a reasonable accomodation is a thing.

        1. JustaTech*

          I think it depends. Some companies offer higher salary if you’re working in a very expensive city, like New York or London or Tokyo or the Bay Area. I know some tech companies have said “if you want to work remotely and *move away* from this high COL area, that’s cool, but we’re bumping you down to the regular salary”, which seems reasonable to me, if the higher salary was initially described as an offset to the cost of living.

          But if they never offered a salary differential based on the cost of living of the office location? Yeah, that would be super questionable (but probably legal in the US as long as it’s not retroactive).

      1. Bleah*

        This sounds bad, but it could be that she was reclassified as wfh that has different pay bands. It’s not necessarily a good thing, but it might be less bad than you think. For example, what if there are already a bunch of people wfh at this band, and she was getting paid way more. This could lead to a discrimination charge from someone at the old band. It might even be codified somewhere saying this is how state agencies have to do pay.

        The pay when moving to wfh is really, really tricky and has all sorts of secondary issues that people might not be thinking about.

        Now, if the manager just unilaterally changed her pay, that’s gross and reeks of discrimination unless they are doing it for everyone. And if they are doing it for everyone, that still sucks, but might be due to budget problems. A lot of state agencies are cutting everyone’s pay using various techniques.

    2. Derjungerludendorff*

      Sounds like your management is horribly incompetent, and pretty callous to boot.

      If they want to tank productivity and morale and lose all their best employees, then company-wide pay cuts to punish people for following the plague safety measures is a great way to do that.

      1. Reality Check*

        Agree. And the kicker is most of us were against locking down in the first place. We certainly didn’t ask for any of it or have a choice. Well fortunately they never carried out that bad idea.

  3. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    My manager has been an absolute dream during this period, but I was borderline incensed when someone very high up in our company said the words, “It’s time for us to get back to work!” in reference to returning to the office. And in case you’re wondering if it was just a poorly worded way of saying we’re going to return to the office on x date, he followed it up with “And just a reminder (employees whose jobs require they be onsite) have been working this entire time.”

    I didn’t realize I was supposed to be treating my job like a vacation for the past five months. I’ve apparently been working way too hard (insert Liz Lemon style eyeroll).

    1. Blaise*

      This is what every teacher has been hearing all summer. It’s horribly demoralizing. We totally hear you.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Absolutely, says OrigCassandra who taught two-and-a-third courses this summer AND served on a task force AND pitched in on new-student orientation AAAAAAAAND…

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      When I read Alison’s response and saw that someone actually said their company was making employees who worked from home during a mandated shutdown forfeit their vacation time for a year, my eyes almost bugged out of my head. Since when is actually working a vacation?!

      1. whingedrinking*

        It’s not, of course, but any kind of justification that some managers can squeak out for extracting more from their employees will get used at some point by someone. You don’t have to commute (to start work), you can wear fluffy bunny slippers (while you work), you can use your kitchen to fix yourself whatever you want for lunch (during your break from work), you can listen to whatever music you like (as you work) – why, you have so many perks, isn’t that just like not being at work at all? I mean, except for the part where you’re working…

      2. Liz*

        That’s ridiculous. My company has been all about employees TAKING time off. I myself am taking a week off at the end of the month. I have nothing planned, but need a break. I’m still working the same amount i was before, just not IN the office. as are my bosses and co-workers. They’ve been very adamant that employees don’t work insane hours, and take time for themselves, and their families.

        1. Loux in Canada*

          Yep, my job is saying people should take time off too. I already had a week of vacation in July that was well-needed, and now I’m just waiting until my week-long December vacation, but for some jobs to assume that people working at home aren’t actually working is insane!

      3. Loux in Canada*

        It’s so ridiculous!! I’m working from home too and I can’t just sit around all day… I have to actually be at my computer and actually work. That’s not a vacation. If I was on vacation I’d just flounce off to my parents’ place and sit around… Instead here I am. Working. Because working from home is working.

    3. noahwynn*

      Our VP of HR spent a lot of time correcting people that it wasn’t “return to work” but rather “return from remote”. I appreciated the clear message from a VP that employees have been working all along.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

        That’s awesome! It truly was so demoralizing to hear that one of the most powerful people in our company has just assumed we’re all playing hooky. Like, don’t you think you’d have noticed if 90% of your employees stopped working, dude? Have YOU been taking vacation?

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s how my workplace has been wording it, too. The chancellor has been great. Faculty are permitted to decide for themselves whether they will deliver their courses on campus, remotely, or a hybrid. And on top of that, for any courses the professor has elected to hold on campus, the students have an option of attending that class remotely; last I heard they were negotiating a campus contract with Zoom to make that happen.

        The chancellor also says he wants as few people on campus as possible, to minimize the risk to those attending and teaching classes. My department will start keeping on-campus hours starting Monday, August 17. We three staff members will each work one (reduced-hours) day in the office and will still work remotely the rest of the time. I hear there are some departments who will not have any on-campus hours at all.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think our CEO included this distinction in his weekly updates for the first month we were out of the office – we are working remotely, NOT out of the office, etc. Continue only to use out of office messages only when you are actually on PTO, carry on, we hope to be back together soon, etc. (We’re still not back in the office.)

      4. pandop*

        It is the same for us, but the university has been pretty good good throughout, but the messaging is all about ‘return to campus’ and ‘reopening buildings’, and as we did have some staff on furlough, ‘colleagues returning from furlough’.

        The stats we keep on our work demonstrate how much we have achieved whilst working from home, but our managers trusted us anyway – it is the sort of thing we can ‘big up’ to the rest of the university in strategy/funding meetings though, which will be handy.

    4. Alex*

      I don’t even think I could keep myself from laughing my higher-up in the face hearing that.

      If they want to see how I would “work” if it is a vacation, be happy to see me topless, with a cocktail in hand, and don’t talk to me until 1pm because I’ll be sleeeping like a baby until then…

      1. Loux in Canada*

        Right?! No way I’d be getting up for 7:30 every morning if I was on vacation LOL. In fact, this morning I actually logged into my computer early, since I was awake early…

  4. Lena Clare*

    Working from home is a ‘vacation’?! UGH. Prior to Covid-19 I had a boss who hated me working from home, even though I had it as an accommodation occasionally, and he used to make me write a list of everything I’d done when at home, which took ages to type up.

    Now we have a much better boss who trusts us to do our work, and actually tells us he trusts us. Much better. We work better too when we’re not having someone looking over our shoulder all the time.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I can so sympathize with this being in the same boat. We just got a new manager and new shift leads for the shift I work at my job, and the difference in productivity for several of us is night and day. New leads and manager trust us to actually do our jobs, old boss was a very petty micromanager who tried to bully the leads into following her lead.

    2. Victoria*

      We have a timesheet system and we have to put what we did during the day in it. I doubt my direct supervisor has ever looked at it however HR has mandated we need to do it.

      I actually work more hours from home than I did in the office so…

      1. The New Wanderer*

        We have to fill out a timesheet for every day too, but we can choose from an individualized shortlist of pre-defined activities so it’s not too much of an issue. Mine almost always reads like: 4 hours Project F, 2 hours Project A, 2 hours Project X. When I had to put out weekly emailed status reports, I just cut and paste from the previous week’s report and made little edits to that because so little would have changed and it kept the list of tasks standardized.

        1. Victoria*

          I just put generic stuff like “email, worked on troubleshooting “issue”, processed y, followed up on z” stuff like that. Not especially detailed.

  5. Academic Librarian Too*

    The phase that is making me nuts is “when we get back to work.” when they mean, “when we get back into the office or back on campus.” I haven’t stopped working. I am working time and 1/2 to support my stakeholders. I am grateful that my supervisor is super hands-off until I need something continues to be so during these trying times.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Also an academic librarian. Our dean created a committee to guide our re-opening process. I was asked to chair. My boss, also on the committee, set up some folders for us before we started and named them “Return to Work Committee.” I changed them the first week, renaming “Re-Opening Committee.” We’ve been working! Our facilities just weren’t open. (In my case my boss was fine with the change and I did tell him why I made it.)

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Ditto. In one breath we’ll be praised for how much work we’ve gotten done since March (we are essentails, and it has been a sprint), and then in the next breath they talk about “geting back to work.” I *know* they don’t mean it but phrasing it that way over and over just reinforces this bogus idea that we’ve been “off” since March.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The phrase is out there in the corporate world too. I made my first ask a question and tree during the last international town hall meeting because the head of HR said back to work. I’ve been more productive than ever, able to support teams in the US, Europe, Australia, and India. Don’t imply that’s not work.

  6. Lana Kane*

    I’m a manager working my ass off from home. If a manager worked from home and still has this mindset, it says more about them than anything else.

    1. Elise*

      Agreed. I am far too busy with higher level strategic work that needs to be done to switch our services to a long-term virtual format to spend all day everyday baby-sitting my adult staff (who have proven that they are self-motivated especially during this time). I spent more time making sure they weren’t working too much and were properly turning work off in off hours than worrying about them not working.

  7. CatCat*

    “[M]onitoring isn’t management.”

    Can we have this put on one of those office motivational posters?

    1. Lena Clare*

      My ex manager has a sign in his office saying “follow you’re dreams”, that he actually bought. I am not kidding. It makes me seethe and itch at the same time.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I hear you. I feel the same! Reminds me of a local supermarket that has signs outside advertising their dieitician services. Whomever created the signs went overboard on using quotes in inapproriate situations, like our “dietician,” which makes it sound illegitimate.

    2. Persephone Underground*

      Omg, I want that on a demotivational poster with vultures circling a carcass in the desert. “Monitoring- is not management”.

  8. Mainely Professional*

    Not that the pandemic hasn’t revealed new depths to human ignorance, but like, what do these managers think remote jobs are like? Do people not understand that a good portion of the workforce was fully remote before this and this is not how it’s done? Is there just a general lack of awareness around white collar remote work?

    Also, any number of blue collar jobs while not remote, as such, require employees to manage their own time on or off site visits with infrequent check-ins. A delivery person isn’t …going to the movies in the middle of the day because no one is watching them, and if they were it would very quickly become apparent there was a problem. White collar remote work is the same. My boss would notice if I didn’t do my job. I notice no one is reporting that their (bad at managing remote work) managers are saying “Productivity is WAY DOWN!”

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Is there just a general lack of awareness around white collar remote work?

      I think this is a big part of it. Many of the employers that are handling remote work badly are employers that didn’t allow WFH at all or only in extreme cases as Alison pointed out. Because they didn’t allow people to work remotely prior to this pandemic and, therefore, couldn’t gauge productivity levels appropriately, employers are now side-eying their employees because they don’t know what the baseline for remote work productivity looks like. And many of these companies don’t realize how old fashioned their anti-WFH policies are and that there are many industries out there where white collar employees have regularly worked from home with no problems.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      I think it’s a huge self own on the managers’ part. Most of the people I know who are against working from home don’t work from home well themselves. Which, fine! It is hard for some people. I have more sympathy for the folks who get distracted easily, than, say the ones who need an audience to do their jobs. Either way, just because you struggle doesn’t mean everyone does.

      It’s also highlighted huge gaps in people’s technical proficiency. What some people called “collaboration” was really making someone more tech savvy create the powerpoint or update the spreadsheet. Having to do it themselves or review what someone else created has exposed some folks. A lot of others seem to have a lot of trouble keeping up with the increased volume of email that has replaced some conversations.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      It’s the same people who think teachers have an easy job because they get the summers off.

      1. whingedrinking*

        There are way too many people who think teachers have an easy job all year round. I’m hoping the number of people who’ve had to homeschool their kids for the last few months will give them a little perspective, but I’m cynical.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Actually, there is plenty of monitoring of delivery persons. Last time I had something delivered to my home, the delivery company provided a link where I could follow the delivery driver’s route in real time. That’s perhaps too much monitoring, but I guess it’s typical of the modern workplace.

      1. Mainely Professional*

        I was thinking less of like a logistics ups/fedex/food delivery employee and more like the person from the local florist/oil delivery/compost pickup/pool maintenance service person. I know they’ll come at some point on delivery/service day but there’s not an app I can check.

        1. doreen*

          Well, no, there’s not an app you can check but just because there isn’t an app doesn’t mean the vehicle isn’t tracked . Lots of delivery vehicles have GPS and even if the customer can’t track it the dispatcher or someone else can. Even before GPS was common, I would get phone calls asking if my oil delivery had arrived yet, so they could tell where the driver was on his route.

    5. JustaTech*

      I know some managers who insisted their front-office staff come back into the office like two months ago because the manager was convinced they weren’t working.
      “Are their metrics down?” “Well, we don’t really track those.”
      “What would they normally be doing?” “Going on sales calls, answering the phone.”
      “Well, all sales calls are by phone now, and you could forward the front desk phone to SalesPerson’s personal phone.”
      “No, they need to be in the office because they’re not working!”

      Part of the issue is that this manager was not happy with the SalesPerson’s performance *before* COVID, and part of the issue is that this manager is not proficient with current technology, and part of the issue is that this manager has a pretty narrow view of what work *is* that was set a long time ago and has chosen to not update their worldview.

  9. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Amen! I completely agree with Alison. I don’t know why the idea of working from home is such a catastrophe for these people. It sounds like some managers are spending more time and energy making sure people are working than actually working themselves. They need to get over themselves and realize their employees aren’t children. Any employees who aren’t doing their jobs should be dealt with individually, as Alison mentioned. Most people are responsible enough to do the job they’re being paid for. They get the work done. Constant status updates and monitoring just hinder productivity. When you employ adults, you need to treat your employees like adults. Anyone who monitors their employees (or coworkers for that matter- looking at Self-Appointed Hall Monitor) as if they are school children should realize that nobody likes them and will try to get away from them as soon as it’s possible to find another job.

  10. Jackalope*

    I love this, Alison. Thank you so much for putting this together. I feel like after the initial blip of emotions I’ve been having productivity levels similar to when we were in the office. Some workloads are a bit slower but others are faster, so it evens out.

    1. Jackalope*

      Emotions about the pandemic, I meant, which were so overwhelming earlier this year but are now more manageable.

      1. Maeve*

        What’s your trick? Because as the pandemic gets worse and worse I am definitely spiraling more and more! (Or maybe your trick is that you’re in a country that’s not the US, or NY/NJ where it’s much better now that it was before.)

        1. Jackalope*

          Oh my gosh, I wish I were in a safer place! I think some of it is that I’ve always been a summer person and many of the things I love (biking, going for long walks) I can still do, while other things I love that are shut down (choir) are always shut down in the summer so the fact that I can’t do them isn’t as hard. Having more daylight helps too. And some of it is figuring out how to do some other things outside of work (like having two friends over that sat 20 feet away from us and we had lots of space but it was still in real life and not on Zoom).

          But the other thing is that I’ve gotten my routine down at work and that’s helpful. I’ve learned how to use our new tools for making everything as paperless as possible (not allowed to go into the office right now unless I have a hardware issue), I’ve figured out my breaks (every morning I call my dad and go for a walk while we check in on each other, and every afternoon I go for a walk with my housemate and husband), I know how much food I’ll need for lunch at home, how many blankets the cat needs for a proper nap next to me…. So having that is so helpful. I won’t lie; I miss my coworkers like you wouldn’t believe (actually you probably would….), and there are still days when I just cry about it all for no obvious reason. And I have three coworkers leaving the office that I didn’t get to say goodbye to (good reasons – promotions and a retirement) and this breaks my heart. I miss chatting here and there, miss knowing about people’s vacations and cute children and puppy pictures. Miss it so much! But I’ve had some really good time with the people I live with, and I’ve never been so up on my dad’s life since I left for college a few decades ago (we used to talk every week but not every day), and I try to focus on that.

          Don’t know if that helps at all but I hope so.

  11. Somebody*

    What advice do y’all have for the opposite scenario? Our manager doesn’t seem to be working… Lots of unanswered questions, no checking in, and tons of loose ends. We usually like her hands off approach, but this is getting a little weird.

    1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

      I’d suggest putting some time on her calendar if you can for a check-in. It’s not ideal, but it’ll give you a chance to see if she has any input or concerns and might also bring to light that she’s been more hands-off than she realizes.

    2. Ali G*

      Do you have any regular check ins? You need to maybe be more proactive, instead of just emailing and waiting to hear back.

      1. MassMatt*

        Maybe so, and probably at least some of her reports do also. But where’s the accountability? It sounds like the manager is not doing her job.

        Working from home has lots of advantages but it’s not a good fit for everyone, and IMO it works better when employees can choose to do it vs: being forced to do it. And with the pandemic many are being forced, and under less than ideal circumstances, like having to juggle work and child care all at the same kitchen table.

    3. Dave*

      I try to do summary emails for my boss when I am not getting the info I need. I have finally gotten our weekly meeting restored which gives me a concrete time to try and get more answers. One of my favorite questions to ask when they tell me they don’t have an answer for x is when should I ask you about that again?

      1. JustaTech*

        ” when should I ask you about that again?”
        This! This this this! It works well with bosses, coworkers, contractors, cable companies (OK, not nearly as well, but some). It sets up a clear understanding that 1) you will be following up on this and 2) *when* you’ll be following up.

    4. Lorac*

      Yeah, I haven’t had ANY communication with my manager since April. Yes it’s been 4 months.

      He’s usually pretty hands off, and I had to really work to get him to commit to a weekly check in, but he immediately dropped those when we went remote back in February.

      I’m usually fine with a hands-off manager, but this is getting ridiculous. I must be the only worker in the world who wants my manager to manage more.

      1. Academic Librarian Too*

        I have had two one-on-one zooms with my supervisor and one was my performance review. I had one phone call when I was bursting is good news. (afterwards realized it could have been an email.) We have once a week hour full staff meetings. Plenty for me.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I don’t think it’s unusual to want more than quarterly contact with your manager! (Unless your manager is terrible, in which case I could see not wanting contact.) I would be very nervous about not getting feedback on progress reports or how they perceive things are going for that long. Part of the employment relationship is having opportunities to develop professionally, and managerial feedback tends to be important for that.

        1. Lorac*

          Yeah that’s what’s missing.

          I wish I got feedback. I just get a bland and generic “You’re doing fine” and he gives me a good review on my annual review each time so I guess I can’t complain. But I feel like my skills are degrading and I’m stagnating professionally because I haven’t gotten any meaningful feedback since joining.

      3. NoContactAsWell*

        I had to actively email my manager in June saying I needed more contact and information. Hadn’t heard from them at all since the start of the pandemic.

    5. BluntBunny*

      Can you IM or call them bring up that they seem to not have time to address your issues who should you contact in the meantime? Also possibly ask a different team manager possibly saying your manager appears to be away and are they able to help you with an enquiry? Could you get to together with your teammates and escalate it to the next level up?

  12. The New Normal*

    We’ve struggled with this. My husband’s firm has management that does not believe in “working” from home. They begrudgingly allowed him to WFH during lockdown when we made it clear that denial would mean he would take a leave of absence as outlined in the employee manual. He has a whole setup and works well at home, but they still send out random pointless emails with read receipts to see if he is actually paying attention and has IT check to see when he is logged in and active on the computer. The worst part? They don’t trust WFH because they are the ones who take advantage. His boss was “working from home” when actually driving 14 hours to their vacation home. But they joyfully allow a new employee to WFH three days a week because she needs to care for her child with a disability. I do not begrudge her AT ALL! With school starting at home, we are having to split our time again. We’ve already decided that we would prefer to struggle if he needs to quit than put up with this kind of behavior.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      “They don’t trust WFH because they are the ones who take advantage. ”

      My experience has been that the bosses who are the worst micromanagers, are the ones who are goofing off all day and not doing their work. Since they need their boss to hover over them to make sure they do basic things like check their emails, they assume that their employees also need that.

  13. Kalamet*

    > Their rationale is that working from home is like being on vacation.

    TIL I’ve been on vacation for almost 3 years now. :P

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Ugh, that reminds me of when I went full-time freelance, and my BIL made jokes about my “retirement” and “fun-employment.” Never mind that I was working more hours than ever. That’s one of several reasons I don’t talk to my BIL any more than I absolutely have to.

    2. Fieldpoppy*

      Yup. I’ve run a business from my home office since 1995. It’s amazing how many people think this gives me the flexible kind of day where I could, say, spend three hours taking their brother in law — whom I do not know! — to q medical appointment. I am actually on the phone, on zoom, at an actual meeting in the before times or sunk into a screaming deadline all the live long day and many evenings and weekends. But there is this weird notion — despite evidence that I have supported myself very well for 25 years — that I only work when I feel like it. Drives me nuts.

  14. Liz*

    I really don’t understand the manager’s point of view here. It should be very simple to know if workers are being productive working from home. Is the work getting done? Are they meeting weekly, monthly, quarterly goals? If things aren’t being done-that should become clear, and if a manager doesn’t have a good way to keep track of this, then THEY aren’t doing THEIR job.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It also means they were never doing their jobs properly as managers. If the only way you “know” your direct reports are “working” is to monitor them constantly to see if they aren’t distracted, then that means you actually have no proper measures of productivity, and you never did. Every employee should have clear deliverables and benchmarks. They may not always be numerical, but they should be clear in terms of what’s expected to get done and at what quality. How you get there and what exact time to the minute you spend working on it should have no bearing on evaluation of the final product (unless an employee is losing sleep and working 18-hour days in order to reach those goals).

  15. hbc*

    I think the thing that’s killing me here is the number of people (some of whom report to me) using this unique situation to dump on working from home. I have so many people who aren’t very effective right now, but that’s because they’re watching their kids at the same time, or cramped in with their other four roommates who are working from home, or they can’t structure their week so that all the stuff that is more easily done at the office is…done at the office.

    Those same people who are bemoaning the inefficiency of working from home are completely blind to all the dumb inefficiencies that this has exposed. I tracked a piece of paper through six pairs of hands the other day, when it maaaybe needed three people. Sure, we could get people back to the office to make the paper flow better, or we could improve the procedure so it doesn’t take six steps.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yeah, this situation is definitely should not be the barometer employees use to judge working from home since many people did not plan to do so – that makes a huge difference. I’m full time remote regardless of a pandemic, and I love it. If I had been in-house and then sent home unexpectedly without the ability to take home an extra monitor, or still lived in my former apartment that had zero space for me to set up my laptop/monitor/conference speakerphone, then yeah – I’d probably think working from home sucks, too.

      1. Colorado*

        Yes, exactly this. This situation should not be the barometer for normal working from home. I wouldn’t mind working from home if my kid wasn’t home all day with the day camps closed and her not being able to go back to the classroom. No play dates, no activities, or taking days off to go to the water parks, etc. Just sitting around watching mom work and trying to get attention throughout the day. Then online school starts and I have to figure out how to work all day and make sure shes’s doing her work (she’s 9). The additional guilt of this is nothing like normal working from home and should not be compared to that.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve been trying to get my managers to approve work with a vendor and it has been a month of runaround since I turned in the proposal and statement of work.
      When I keep pushing for a yay or nay answer, they keep giving me lame excuses like “it fell through the cracks,” or “sorry I was out and didn’t see it,” or “I missed that email because my power was out for two days.”

      And these are the MANAGERS?

    3. noahwynn*

      I struggle with that too. While this has been great to prove that some of us can work well remotely, it has also been terrible because so many people do not have ideal situations right now to work remotely. Child care issues, stress, anxiety, lack of space, spouse/partner/roommate also working in the same space. All of these things are not issues you would have in a normal WFH experience. Not to mention all the IT issue from companies who were not setup to work remotely. I think it is great that a lot of us can get stuff done at home and are proving it. However, I also fear that managers will point to the decreased productivity of right now as a reason we need to go back to the office ASAP.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This whole thing has been really eye-opening on the efficiency front. One of my team, who’s tasked with overhauling a group that is both resistant to change AND in dire need of it (and very busy) is stuck between hating the pandemic and being grateful that it’s opened a door to implement a lot of the changes that are badly needed because now there simply is no choice to do it the old way. (And this is not anyone being efficiencied out of a job, it’s giving the team a more reasonable work/life balance.)

  16. nnn*

    The thing I wonder about these kinds of situations: can managers not tell whether people are working by . . . whether work is being done? Like, is there no output or deliverables or evidence of work having been done?

    1. Anononon*

      I think this is part of the issue – some companies don’t have these metrics/reporting capabilities in place. My workplace is at the extreme end of things, but we’re a high-volume firm where there needs to be tracking of everything or things fall through the cracks without anyone ever knowing. Most of 2019 was also spent creating rubrics and reports for tracking how much people produced. It got a lot of grumbling (for good and bad reasons), but it’s definitely helpful now because it’s super easy to see what exactly people are doing each day.

    2. fhgwhgads*

      It’s a good way to tell that a manager is bad at managing: if they have no measurable objectives for their direct reports, regardless of where the work is being done, they can’t know if their staff is productive or not. So if they start freaking out that they can’t tell if you’re working when you’re not in the same building, they’re showing their hand that they’re not actually managing at all. That or they don’t work well from home and are just projecting – but again if they were really managing they’d be able to see if they’re right or wrong to be concerned about that.

    3. leapingLemur*

      Depending on the work, it can be tricky to tell how much is getting done. I worked on a support desk for a while, and depending on how tough the issue was, sometimes 1 incident would take 5 minutes but other times it would take a few days to solve.

      1. Product Person*

        You can still tell how much is done in cases like that.

        Don’t just count incidents, count their severity. “One support desk agent can do 200 low-severity tickets a week. A medium-severity ticket counts as 3 tickets, a high-severity counts as 10, a mega severity counts as 200.” If you get a mega-severity ticket one week, your manager would know you’re likely to get your “200 weekly points” from just that one. Sure, you may get lucky and solve the ticket must faster, and other times, go beyond a week to complete the work, but when the weights are assigned based on statistical analysis, over time things even out and you can tell if an agent is coing their job by their average weekly score.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Unfortunately, I think the answer here is yes—they never had output or deliverables they were paying attention to. It was always butt-in-seat, staring-at-monitor as the indicator of “productivity.”

    5. The New Wanderer*

      This isn’t specific to working from home, but my now-former manager (new to management) was concerned that he wouldn’t have visibility into my project if I didn’t have daily scrum-style meetings with my team and him. He actually said that the way he saw it, he needed daily status meetings because otherwise he wouldn’t know anything about it until he received it in 3 months (my interim deadline). Trust me when I say, my research work is not conducive to Agile/scrum and it would be a huge waste of valuable time to hold daily meetings. That manager has never worked a project that didn’t fit neatly into the Agile framework and just could not comprehend what a bad fit it would be.

      But more to the point, it’s like he never conceived of the idea of a middle ground: that of course I would keep him in the loop during our standing biweekly team meeting (as I had set up with my previous manager and he was invited to), and combined with 1:1 weekly meetings, that that would be enough for him to understand our progress. He just assumed either he had to actively micromanage things on a daily basis or get no visibility whatsoever for 3 months.

    6. Middle Manager*

      In my line of work (government policy), it can be pretty hard to measure in the short term. For example, updating a government regulation literally takes years. We do our best to build in smaller goals within, but those are sometimes out of our control (i.e. it needs review by the governor’s office and we might like them to follow the agreed upon return time, but if they don’t, it’s not like we can make them). You can get a good sense of people moving things forward or not in terms of months/years, but days can be a lot trickier depending on the projects they are working on. I’ve legitimately put in full days of work and felt like there wasn’t any tangible accomplishment, just tons of microscopic baby steps on lots of different things. Because I have a good track record of getting things done, my boss is very hands off. But when we have an employee who doesn’t, and you don’t want to wait months/years to confirm, it gets harder. Not agreeing with the full time camera people or WFH is vacation crowd, just noting that there is some nuance on how measurable some jobs are day to day.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I remember a brilliant presentation on metrics at an STC* conference, and it is vivid in ny memory despite it being years ago. The short version? If they don’t give you metrics, make them and provide them so you know the metrics make sense.
      The new manager we got shortly before lock down has pushed us into Agile and Jira and we’re being measured in sprints with the rest of engineering. It’s working for me.
      *Society for Technical Communication

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        Any advice on what to use as metrics for a job that doesn’t really involve project work? My job is largely customer service (phone/email enquiries) with a whole lot of other tandom little tasks that don’t have a home and anything that other teams need help with. My main measure is the customer satisfaction level, but that’s a yearly number and isn’t really helpful on a daily/weekly level. Workload also varies dramatically, so some days I can be completely overloaded and others just waiting for work to come in.

        1. nnn*

          Thinking about it in a “making sure people working from home are doing their jobs” context, one metric that might be useful is response time. How long does it take for customers to get a reply to their email? How long are callers waiting on hold?

          The flaw in this metric is it might incentivize getting existing callers off the phone so new callers aren’t waiting on hold for long periods of time. But, at the same time, it would be a way to measure whether customers are actually getting taken care of.

      2. Persephone Underground*

        Be reaaaally careful with metrics. They can cause all sorts of odd incentives if done even slightly wrong, or be used in ways that distort the full picture by number-crunching types. Solid goals, yes. Necessarily quantitative metrics? That depends. E.g. In software it can incentivize quickly closing tickets by writing fast, dirty, and therefore buggy code (that someone will have to fix later, or that will eventually make your whole product collapse like a house of cards). But your tickets/week individually went up! QA can fix it! Etc. Etc.

        1. Product Person*

          That’s why solid performance measurement systems never rely on a single metric, so employees can’t “game the system”, making someone else’s work much harder.

          In software:
          Number of user stories implemented in a 2-week sprint
          Number of defects detected by QA while testing the implemented user stories

          A programmer who on average does 2 stories per sprint and get zero defects would get a higher performance rating than one doing 7 user stories with 13 defects. The latter would get feedback and coaching, and if things didn’t get better, only the former would get a raise at the annual performance review.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          “Metrics” doesn’t have to be solely a number. You can measure performance too by quality, by ethics, by process, not just some percentage increase or whatever.

        3. JustaTech*

          Oh yes to this!
          The manufacturing department had no metrics and got no feedback on how they were doing. So they optimized for the one thing they could see: time. How fast can I do this thing? But that led to bad shortcuts.
          So a new set of metrics were added: yield (something they they generally couldn’t see), which is directly negatively impacted by shortcuts. And the shortcutting mostly went away.

          If you can figure out how to give some kind of “count” to the quality of the work, the metrics are much more useful.

  17. Laura H.*

    My mom has been WFH both intermittently pre-pandemic and full time as it’s marched on. From what I catch, her manger sounds like he gets it- iirc, they’re all WFH as well, and that goes a heck of a long way. (I’m not actively listening- mom’s office isn’t soundproof and all of it goes in an ear and then to a ‘not my business’ brain dump) Mom’s responsive tones are cordial and seems reciprocated.

    I don’t want to WFH or maybe just at home- I’ve always had trouble with homework at home or in my college apartment- I would do it somewhere else on campus. Can’t be choosy at the moment, but I’m not employed working at the moment either.

    Knowing how you function is crucial, less crucial than having a manager who understands that you’re not slacking. And of course productivity has taken a shift- we’re in a very unprecedented situation that has turned a ton of things topsy-turvy.

    WFH has flexibility but from my observation, it’s far from a vacation.

  18. Pidgeot*

    Is this the kind of situation where we shouldn’t be surprised that bad managers do things… badly? I haven’t really heard of otherwise good managers behaving like this.

  19. Blaise*

    Ugh. This is why a ton of teachers are being required to teach virtually from their classrooms… kinda defeats the purpose of distance learning to keep everyone healthy…

    1. KaciHall*

      One of the high schools near me is doing in person virtual learning. They all go to their first hour class, have that in person, then have virtual learning the rest of the day, while still sitting in the first classroom.

      I haven’t gotten a conference response from anyone that explains how this will actually help prevent COVID spreading. Though it’s still better than the elementary school that’s releasing half an hour early every day due to the pandemic…

      1. doreen*

        I’m going to guess that this high school will now (even if they didn’t before) keep that class together for the whole day so that if there are say 30 kids in the class, those 30 kids will be in their own little group – unlike most high schools I know of, where your first period class has a different group of kids than your second period class and where you might have 200 different students in your classes over a 7 period day. It will also cut down on how many students the teacher is in contact with. Of course, if the students leave at the end of the day and the classes get mixed on buses , it will have been for nothing.

    2. Academic Librarian Too*

      Weird huh? I was just asked how I wanted the lecture hall set up. I don’t want it set up. I will be teaching from home. Students will be learning from home. There will be zoom.

  20. Can't Sit Still*

    Back in the 90s, I had a manager who had to drive to other offices a couple of times a month. She was absolutely convinced that we did not work while she was driving, so she would call us from her car phone (a legit car phone hardwired into her car) and check on us. (We were high tech then: Pentium 386s! 9600 baud modem! Windows 95!) It drove us mad, because she would inevitably call while we were making collection calls, and get upset if she went straight to voicemail. She would call over and over and over again. I’m still mad about it, obviously. LOL!

    1. Ali G*

      OMG that reminds me of the CEO at my first job. I would literally get voicemails from her that said “Oh Hi Ali, it’s CEO, I see from your calendar that you are in the office today so I don’t know why you aren’t answering the phone, anyway…”
      Really? There are zero reason why I am not at my desk waiting for your random call? Maybe I’m in the bathroom, or getting something off the printer, or talking to a colleague.
      I was also a little passive aggressive by the end and when I would call her back, I would offer no excuse as to why I missed her call. I know she secretly hated that!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        You’re better than me because I would have called her back and said, “Hi, CEO. I received your voicemail after being stuck in the bathroom emptying my guts out for the past half hour. What I can do to help you?”

        She’d stop leaving those dumbass voicemails then.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Truth. In a long-ago partial WFH position I didn’t recognize a suspicious question and honestly answered that I’d signed out for a long lunch because I was vomiting. I heard from someone in the room that the meeting leader lost all blood in his face as I spoke. Who knew he was squeamish!?

      2. Delta Delta*

        I had something similar in one of my legal internships! I had a co-intern and we had slightly staggered hours. She left at 3:30 or 4 (I can’t recall) and I left about 1/2 hour later. Our supervisor sometimes worked from home and it all worked out fairly well. One day my co left at her usual time, and I went to the other end of the building to pick up a print job, use the bathroom, and do some other errand on that side of the building. When I came back apparently the supervisor had called, but I didn’t know that; we were using an office belonging to someone on sabbatical for a year, and we didn’t know how to access her voicemail. The next day the supervisor yelled at me for “leaving” and said I needed to be available when she called. I racked my brain and actually remembered leaving later than usual the day before. She didn’t believe me. A couple days later we solved the voicemail mystery, and there was her message that I never heard because I had to take a whiz.

        this was almost 20 years ago and apparently I’m still upset about this.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I had a boss who would do this, too. Except part of my job involved me being away from my desk, let’s say I was the director of llama training so sometimes I was out in the llama paddock training the llamas.

        Boss: I sent you an email and called you and you didn’t answer.
        Me: I was in the llama paddock working with the llamas.
        Boss: Well, I shouldn’t have to come outside to the llama paddock to find you when I need you. You can’t be hiding from work in the llama paddock.
        Me: I. Am. The. Director. Of. Llama. Training. It. Is. My. Job. To. Be. In. The. Llama. Paddock.

  21. A Simple Narwhal*

    I work for a company that, pre-March, was definitely anti-wfh, even though a majority of the entire company’s duties could be done remotely. But once all this happened and everyone had to wfh full time, the company saw productivity remain up (and even increase in some cases), and immediately went – “oh man this is awesome! Once everyone can safely come back in, would we even want them to?”

    It may have taken a global emergency to open their eyes, but I am eternally grateful that they were willing to admit they were wrong and are committed to changing.

    1. MassMatt*

      The pandemic is going to accelerate the WFH trend enormously for many jobs. Managers are going to realize it’s a good fit for many employees and cuts costs considerably. Employers that remain inflexible once the pandemic is over are going to have a lot of trouble attracting good employees.

      1. Alex*

        I think the fact that we (IT) – without actually planning it like this – enabled our workforce to go to 99% WFH within a single day without productivity dropping has helped a lot at my employer. We just..did not go to the office one day, and the company churned on.

        We had 25% staff capability on the VPN in January, but upgraded that to 100% in February – this was a lucky coincidence however – also, we have been deploying a Laptop as a primary work device for 5+ years now, so everyone down to the frontdesk receptionist was equipped with a Laptop that was set up for remote work (even if it never once left the dock before covid). This was mainly to make IT life easier (and also made the staff more flexible where needed), but came very much in handy now.

        Of course, there’s issues that came up (stuff that has a paper based workflow, needs a signature on paper…), but this has also been a good nudge to move to digital processes and a (at least more than before) paper-less office – we now have a few staff that go on-site (in rotation) to handle incoming and outgoing mail, scanning and forwarding – so everyone else that had to work on the paper copies can wfh and stay safe.

        I have heard a few that can’t wait to be back in the office – but many (myself included) don’t even want to anymore.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      My company has never been anti-WFH (about a third of us are remote workers, another third is dispersed between satellite offices around the globe, and another third works out of our U.S., European, and Asian headquarters), but our CEO recently shared some survey results that showed our productivity levels have remained pretty much the same since pre-COVID times, so they’re looking into letting more people work remotely after this is all said and done. Many people said they would prefer working from home with the occasional office visit, and I think the executives see the benefits of that when it comes to the tremendous cost savings on facilities. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if half our workforce is permanently remote by 2021.

    3. NGL*

      I don’t think my company is ready to get rid of time in the office completely, but our CEO did say recently that he could see a hybrid model remain in place, so especially those days when you didn’t have meetings and would just be working at your desk, you could work at your desk…at home!

    4. Ancient Alien*

      My company is very pro-WFH and I have for several years even though i only live 15 minutes from the HQ. It does have some disadvantages (e.g., culture), but on balance, I’m sure it saves them millions in office real estate, utilities, etc. Additionally, it increases their potential labor pool to literally anywhere in the nation and allows them to pay less for employees living in lower cost of living cities and states. People tend to look at WFH as a benefit to the employees, but really, if done right, it can be just as much of a benefit to the organization and possibly more.

  22. Too Bad*

    In my workplace many managers and company leadership share this mindset. It didn’t help that the first day we went remote during the pandemic I had to terminate one of my team members that was constantly asking to work remotely and was a strong advocate for remote working in general because he lied about what he was working on and dug himself deeper into the lie when questioned about it. It was a clear cut case, he said he spent the day working in the company CRM when there was no record of him logging in that day or modifying any records at all.

    1. leapingLemur*

      On the plus side, if upper management asks “What if people aren’t working when they work from home?” you can point out that you can and have noticed when this happens.

  23. SheLooksFamiliar*

    My department once got a new Director who was a devout anti-WFH guy. He told us he was dropping our current schedule of 3 planned days onsite/2 days offsite, even though we’d been using for months without complaint. This was during the mid-2000s when gas was $5 a gallon and our own CEO was okay with WFH. Literally none of our business partners or executive leadership had problems with our work output; in fact, we got a few awards during this time for getting things done. This director knew it, but he still axed the plan.

    Why? “When I’m working at home I have ESPN going in the background, I have my tunes goin’, my kids and dogs are are making noise, my wife gets visits from our neighbors, and I can’t get anything done.” One of our older and braver team members said, “Well, that’s because you’re doing it wrong. You’re not working, you’re chilling.” Ooh, if looks could kill…makes me sad that a lot of so-called leaders still can’t understand what working from a homestead really means.

    1. leapingLemur*

      Different people need different level of background noise. Some prefer no background noise. I am more comfortable working with some background noise. So having music or sports in the background is actually helpful for me (it would be less helpful if I was interested in sports, though).

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed, but not this guy. Turns out he couln’t focus in a quiet office without barking dogs and ESPN, either. He spent a few hours a day wandering around the building, dropping into various offices and even team meeting in his new role as “the corporate recruiting ambassador, and I’m here to help.” He and his boss loved this kind of thing, but the rest of the building learned to not make eye contact. Most of us resigned within months of his onboarding.

        He even tried gladhanding the C-suite but they shut him down: ‘Your team is pretty busy, they need you more than we do.’ I still miss those C-levels, they were awesome.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Sure thing! Our boss shot a ‘how dare you?’ look at my team mate and said ‘Well, I don’t think working at home is a good practice. Our retail sales teams (in store sales) can’t work at home, it’s not fair if you do.’ Serious eye rolling all around the table, our CEO had approved WFH and our boss knew it.

        Team Mate replied that we’d all been working at home for several months, maybe we could give him some pointers. Our boss’s face got red. After all, Team Mate said, our CEO was very happy with what we were doing, didn’t our new boss see the awards in our offices and cubes? Also, he said, retail sales teams had a very generous incentive plan, percentage-wise: ‘Pay me what you pay them and I got no problem working at the office!’

        Ouch. Our new boss got visibly agitated by this point, taking deep breaths and slowly exhaling, trying to keep his cool. Team Mate simply kept a bland look on his face, something he did better than anyone I know. I think that pissed off our boss even more. because he abruptly ended the meeting.

        We had one-on-one meetings with New Boss in the following weeks, and he was livid about that meeting. ‘Things are changing around here and you guys need to get on board!’ It won’t surprise you to know there were lots of resignations soon afterward.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I really hope Team Mate went on to something bigger and better, that hopefully involves a leadership position. I’d have loved to work for him! (Not so much for New Boss.)

        2. Geralt of HRivia*

          Yeah, I was gonna say that’s the best way to lose your rock stars immediately. Enjoy taking a division I suppose.

  24. Amber Rose*

    It’s weird that my manager is both 100% supportive of us working from home as needed… but also clearly believes we don’t do anything when we’re home. Like my coworker will be WFH and my manager will ask if I can do some of her work, and then looks surprised when I point out that my coworker is answering her phone/emails/has already done the thing.

    I wish I could WFH full time honestly. Being here is so soul sucking sometimes.

    1. ieAnon*

      Ha, my manager is similar. Very open to WFH (although they’re in the office everyday because they “can’t work at home”) and has said repeatedly that they trust I’m working my hours accordingly… BUT want’s to be cc-ed on literally every email I send and will call, text AND email if they think something is particularly important, as though I won’t see it.

      Very mixed signals.

      1. What Day Is It?*

        I had a new boss that required being cc’d on all emails that I sent. That lasted approximately a week until he said “Why are all of your emails coming to me too?” Well, because you asked me to do it that way. Thankfully, he did not last long in the organization.

        1. ieAnon*

          So far, that does not seem to have deterred boss. What’s weird is that they want to be in the loop about the minutiae of my daily work (“Did you scan and send that document? If I’m not copied, I don’t know for sure!” even though they never knew I was responsible for said task until they asked to be copied on everything), but also complain about how hard it is to leave work on time.

          They’re regularly in the office for 10 hour days, and I’m guessing some of that is a) reading all the email they’re cc-ed on and b) sending “thank you” back to every recipient on said emails. It’s crazy, but it’s not my life! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. LQ*

        Eh, right now I have to ask to be copied on everything because priorities and the president and the noise of it all means that someone who is taking vacation for a day means we have to throw out the work they did and start over to get as far as possible in a (very long) day to get stuff done. Ideally just use the communal tool for that stuff (slack/teams egh) but if you want a day off and the president is going to announce a terrifying amount of work on a Saturday night that means I’ve got to be copied on everything. I hate it too.

        Doesn’t mean I’m anti wfh, just means there may be other things. (That said I’ve been telling folks this as often as I can, and that includes they show up with work that’s 95% done and just needs final whatever after something absurd happens.)

    2. Myrin*

      What I will never get about the scenario you describe is how your manager can just… keep having that belief. Let’s say she starts out as a manager with no experience with WFH whatsoever and has come to the conclusion that clearly, people don’t do work while “working” from home. Okay. But after like, two times she gets a prompt answer to an email or call or sees the work has already been done, why does the earlier mindset remain? Is she not capable of learning? Does not compute.

  25. Magenta Sky*

    This is not, in any way, a problem of not knowing how to manage remote workers. It’s a problem of not knowing how to manage *any* workers. Having people work from home make it far more obvious that someone is a micromanager who doesn’t trust their employees, but it doesn’t change that they have always been that way. It just moves it to the forefront.

  26. RainyDay*

    My dad is in his early 70s, has worked either for himself or a clear butt-in-seat job, and for YEARS he’s treated my occasional WFH day a “treat” that I “shouldn’t take advantage of.” I’ve been fully remote since March and it’s literally within the past month he’s said to my mom, “Oh, she actually does work when she’s home, doesn’t she?”

    He knows I have a crazy work ethic so it’s not that he doesn’t trust me – I literally think he didn’t understand people could actually work from home and be productive. I wonder how many managers have similar blinders.

    1. A Social Worker*

      My grandmother can’t seem to understand why I don’t answer her calls when I’m working from home. “But you’re at home!” she says. Yes, and I am FREAKING BUSY!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My mom would just come to visit, walk in, and start talking at me. Then 15 minutes in, “oooh! Are you working?”

        Having a home office with a door that closes helps immensely, but I didn’t always have that.

        1. Academic Librarian Too*

          hah. I have a retired husband. I camp out in the living room or on the porch. Gets rather peeved when I wave him off during the work day because yes, I know selecting the perfect leaf blower is the most important thing on his mind.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We got verbal-announcing caller ID for the home phone so we can not pick up when my MIL calls during the day. There was no concept of schedule which boggled my mind because she was a teacher who did all her grading & curriculum development at home …and according to my husband also made the kids respect her at-home office!

  27. WantonSeedStitch*

    Interestingly, before the pandemic hit, our office was in the middle of planning a trial program to allow increased flexibility in work times and locations. Previously, we’d allowed a single work from home day per week for employees who’d been with our organization for at least at year. We were looking at expanding that for those who wanted it, and also at making greater allowances for flexible hours. Because we were doing all the proper planning (figuring out what managers and individual contributors wanted to see from the program, putting together guidelines, etc.), we hadn’t actually started to increase flexibility yet. Then the pandemic hit and we were all sent home for the foreseeable future. Thanks to understanding managers and a really helpful IT staff, it’s been fantastic. I’m just glad my upper management was already on board with more flexibility–it made this experience a lot easier than it could have been.

  28. cmmj*

    Honestly, as an employee I think managers who pull this kind of stuff are communicating that the only reason they do work is because they’re being watched, not because it needs to be done. It’s insulting and annoying, but it also means I don’t have much respect for managers who are essentially telling everyone that if left to their own devices they would just do whatever they seem to think their employees would. Telling on yourself/the lady doth protest too much sort of thing. Obviously on an individual basis, if someone appears to be slacking while working from home, the manager needs to communicate with them directly and come up with solutions–especially if they were functional in the office but are just now having performance issues–but it’s additionally insulting in the era of “employees/parent/teach all rolled up in one!” for managers to assume that work flow problems are due to laziness and not, to borrow a phrase [gestures broadly at everything]. How are they getting any of their own work done by doing all of this? It makes absolutely no sense. Like I guess if they’re feeling a lack on control in their general life it would maybe sublimate into this kind of micromanaging, but whatever is going on it makes them seem less, not more, authoritative.

    1. Nanani*

      They don’t work when they’re outside the office, so they assume everyone else is the same.
      Similar to how the people who claim reimbursments for things that shouldn’t be eligible pretend “everyone does it” and so on.

  29. Girasol*

    Never mind working from home: managers who hold these attitudes about employees have in-office management routines that are dysfunctional as well. They’re managing by seeing who spends more time in the office or who looks busiest and most strained. Even well-intentioned employees can end up with dysfunctional habits like eating at their desks, skipping vacation, acting frazzled, and dawdling in the office after the end of the day as evidence of their loyalty and value to a boss who’s looking for the wrong signs of good work habits. After awhile this nonsense starts to seem like proper professional behavior. The pandemic provides such a great opportunity for HR to spot dysfunctional habits and educate managers and staff instead of encouraging more of the same poor behavior with screen snapshots and distracting status checks. It’s not coddling employees as much as making the company more efficient in-office as well as out.

  30. WorkingGirl*

    This makes me thankful for our set-up. We have a ~30 minute team Skype twice a week and that’s it for “monitoring.”

    1. Alex*

      We have that as well and we even call it an “optional” well-being check-in. And it is truly optional – funny enough, people actually enjoy participating if they do not have to dread the “mandatory meeting again that steals their time”.

    2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      We have the same, a mandatory Monday morning “here’s what we’re all up to this week” and a mid-week optional catch-up. Apart from that, we’re pretty much left to get on with our jobs. We know that management is available if needed, but they’re certainly not looking over our shoulder to make sure that we are performing work appropriate. I am grateful that my job trusts us to get things done without constant oversight.

  31. Alex*

    My colleagues routinely wasted huge amounts of time when we were in the office browsing the internet, etc. I assume they are still probably wasting huge amounts of time. Being in the office doesn’t necessarily result in focused workers!

    My boss has no idea in or out of the office. In fact, she thinks we are all incredibly overworked and is trying to hire another person. ::facepalm::

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, this is all an illusion. Bosses who think employees sitting at their desks looking productive are being productive are deluding themselves. Bosses who don’t micromanage are more likely to get engaged employees. Bosses who do micromanage are more likely to get employees who have a “boss key” on their computer and know how to look busy while actually shopping online or checking social media.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      We all are better and more productive workers for taking breaks at work. What I did not like when we had everyone in the office is that different people’s breaks happened at different times and cut into each other’s productive time. It’s all good and well if Bob and Fergus want to break for a 15-minute friendly chat, but if you are in an open area surrounded by 50 Bobs and Ferguses and they all need to chat with each other at different times of your work day… you’ll never be able to concentrate.

  32. Luke*

    Most of my work comes in electronically- through my section org box and electronic databases where there is a time-stamped record of what was done, by whom, and when down to the second. I constantly have to file things on our organizational hard drive. It is insanely easy to verify, without any sort of keyloggers or spyware, that my incoming work is not being allowed to sit, and am actually logged in, at my computer, working. In my experience, people who accuse others of misdeeds with no supporting evidence tend to do so because they know exactly how they themselves would behave, if given the chance. In the case of telework, they know how unfocused and tempted they are to goof off without someone right there to look over their shoulder, so they assume others are the same way.

  33. Stormy Weather*

    Anyone who thinks you can do whatever the hell you want when you’re working at home needs to have a look at my calendar. I typically have 3-5 meetings a day four days a week (we have no-meeting Fridays).

    If people have deliverables, you will know how they’re doing, FFS.

    As has been said here before, it’s more about control than anything else.

  34. beanie gee*

    My last job had a strong anti-wfh attitude because of trust issues, some of which were totally warranted. The killer was that a lot of people weren’t doing their job IN THE OFFICE and they weren’t managing THAT. So sure, if you let Bob work from home, he will probably slack off, but you’re not doing anything about the fact that Bob spends half of his day working from the office cruising the internet, going desk by desk to chat with people, and taking 2 hour lunch breaks.

  35. cmcinnyc*

    Ditto. In one breath we’ll be praised for how much work we’ve gotten done since March (we are essentails, and it has been a sprint), and then in the next breath they talk about “geting back to work.” I *know* they don’t mean it but phrasing it that way over and over just reinforces this bogus idea that we’ve been “off” since March.

  36. KayDeeAye*

    The sad thing is, it’s not just managers. At least around here, some of the biggest offenders are my fellow employees. We were WFH for months, but we just started a schedule in which we all work from home 3 days/week but come to the office 2 days/week (the staff has been split so there is never more than half of us here at once so we can be really spread out), and then the office is closed on Fridays to give the janitorial staff longer to clean. And some of my fellow employees are bitter, bitter, *bitter* that some people “have Mondays off,” also known as “working from home on Mondays.” Hey, maybe that seems like a Monday off to YOU, but it sure the heck doesn’t to ME. I don’t spend my days off logged on to our network, writing work-related news stories, editing work-related photos, answering work-related emails and phone calls and updating budget spreadsheets, dang it.

    I don’t know: Maybe they can’t do their jobs from home, but I definitely can do MY job, and what’s more, I have been quite productive, thank you very much. So for crying out loud, quit referring to work-from-home days as “days off,” you silly twits. Do you WANT to encourage management to think we’ve all been goofing off since March 17?

  37. Sher_Bert*

    I guarantee you that if you have an employee who is slacking off while teleworking, they are slacking off in the office. Butts in seats does not equal productivity!!
    I once knew of a guy who ran an eBay business from his cubicle, M-F, 8-5. But his boss thought he was a superstar. LOL (He did get eventually busted using company equipment for his enterprise though.)

    1. Anon for this*

      We had a team lead who was always the last one out of the office in the evening. This person also spent most of office, 8-5 hours, chatting with their team (so that they couldn’t get anything done, either), maybe a couple hours a day, 5pm till 7 or 8pm, frantically working on their projects with the team (“guys guys we need to stay late today again, we have a deadline, I’ll order us dinner”), and from 7-8 till 9-10, doing who knows what alone in the office. Rumor had it that this person worked on their side job while in the office during those late hours. This team lead got all the awards and promotions, with our bosses urging us to follow their example of “working crazy hours”.

  38. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    The last issue of the Week magazine (the 8/14 issue) surprised me with an article called “Office Life: Second Thoughts About Remote Work.” Complete with a list of leading tech companies that had pulled back on WFH, because “Creativity, innovation, and serendipity all suffer” when working remotely. Every company they named has multiple locations around the world, so no matter how hard they crack down on WFH, people on the same team or on two collaborating teams, will still be working remotely in relation to each other. I have not had a direct manager that was located in the same office, or the same state, as myself, since 2014. Somehow work gets done. I also have yet to see a company that would say no to hiring offshore contractors, who have to be working from home at least part of the day due to time differences, because WFH supposedly kills creativity or something.

    I just started watching Mad Men (late to the game, I know), and I cannot help but wonder if the office environment shown there is what we supposedly should cultivate as a healthy alternative to remote work? Well that environment is gone and is not coming back, WFH or no.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I will admit to once going back online in the evening after having had a glass wine with dinner… at 3pm I was called to an 8pm meeting about a project whose deliverable I’d delivered the previous week. (The European meal allowed me to stay calm and kind saying things like “It’s in the email I sent you & Jane on Thursday, should I forward it to the whole team?”)

    1. juliebulie*

      And I would like an office with a door and a sofa. And a secretary who will make excuses for me if someone tries to visit while I’m napping, and who will bring me aspirin after my two-martini lunch.* Also, we definitely need a guy to operate the elevator for us. Don’t want to touch those germy buttons with our own fingers.

      *Yes, just two martinis. After three martinis I really would start to act like a Mad Men character.

  39. Anon for this*

    My manager’s been great, it’s my coworkers in the office (really one specifically) who are the issue. I’m partially WFH and one team member is entirely WFH as accommodation during COVID. I understand that they’re frustrated, but the two of us are taking as much scut work as possible and would rather not be out at all.

  40. lilsheba*

    My last employer took 5 months to setup work from home, and paid me to stay at home and do nothing rather than set that up, because they don’t trust us and treat us like children. My new job, starting today, is work from home from the start and it’s SO MUCH BETTER!!! I’m so glad I got this opportunity.

  41. agnes*

    Part of the problem is that most companies don’t train their managers on how to manage people in the first place,and, they promote people into management based on some criteria that isn’t actually related to their ability to manage people. Often the criteria that companies use to make promotional decisions for people to move into management is based on individual work productivity–like the most productive sales person winds up being the sales manager. instead they should look for “manager skills” like effective communication, ability to organize complex work, ability to delegate work, follow through, and so on.

  42. Nuke*

    We’ve actually hit kind of a drought of actual work to do at work… We usually run out of tasks by around 9:30am, and some are thrown in throughout the day but you’re lucky if you catch one. So it’s honestly like having up to 7 hours of “free time”, except we still have to sit at our work desks! I don’t really mind, but up until this past week, we were forced to watch hours upon hours of videos that were sort of like “professional development” videos… 90% of the time they were outdated and infantalizing, though. A couple weeks ago we were given, seriously, a THREE HOUR LONG video of “experts” talking about a certain topic. It was like a hundred 3-4 minute videos of random white people talking about stuff. Yikes!

    We don’t do those videos anymore since we literally ran out of them, haha.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’d go crazy or start studying a foreign language. Would they let you take an online course at least?

  43. LizM*

    Maybe it’s because part of our work involves actual COVID response, so we’ve be incredibly busy, but I don’t have time to monitor my employees that closely. And truthfully, I do have a handful of employees where I’m concerned about their productivity, but no one on that list was a surprise, I sometimes wondered what they did all day when we were all in the office. Their first line supervisors are continuing to work on it.

    The hardest part for me is that I did quite a bit of management by walking around and impromptu discussions to work through issues my team was having. Now we need to schedule more of it because people are trying to juggle childcare and work, so I want to give people the predictability to get their kids set up or trade off with a partner before I spring a complicated work question on them of accidentally cut out the first line supervisors or other collaborators . So even though I don’t think I’m spending that much more time on the phone or zoom than I would be having conversations in my office, my calendar looks a lot fuller, and my employees may feel like they’re in more meetings.

    I’ve also set up a couple of optional virtual “office hours” where I commit to hang out in a Teams meeting for specific times, so that if employees want to say hi or have a quick question, they can drop by. Sometimes they turn into more of a social coffee break, but it’s helped me stay connected with employees who are not my direct reports and what they’re working on without having to schedule formal meetings, so hopefully feels less intrusive. I’ve gotten good feedback.

  44. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 just because [as a manager] you can glance up from your desk and see that your employees are sitting in front of their computers does not mean that they are hard at work and being productive. If someone is a slacker, they will find ways to slack off at the office just as easily as if they were home.
    #2 if your employees are getting their work done, that’s all that should matter. Sure I do things other than work if it’s slow (throw laundry on, clean up the kitchen, even watch a little tv) but when I need to buckle down and get shit done, I do just that.
    #3 while some have a hard time being productive at home, in general I’d venture to say that a large portion of people are MORE productive (not including the parents who are keeping the kids entertained/helping with school during the pandemic). My last job was in an office of 1000 and I worked in IT support. I was so much more productive on the one day I worked from home each week than I ever was in the office. I didn’t have 20 people stopping by my desk every day wanting to chat, or trying to circumvent the ticketing system by coming to me directly to solve their issues. Co-workers only reached out via Skype or a call if they actually needed something work related. And I didn’t have my loud chatty manager having non-work related conversations with my team that kept me from concentrating on my work.

    Bottom line is this…you treat people like adults and provide flexibility, they will be more willing to put in the extra time and effort when it’s needed. But if you micromanage and clock watch them to death, you will get the bare minimum out of them, and they’ll constantly count the days until they can escape and work for someone willing to treat them properly.

    1. Jackalope*

      I don’t do laundry during the week because it would throw off my laundry schedule, but even for those people who do, how is that different from chatting for a few min in the bathroom or at the printer? Most people don’t work nonstop all day and if they’re taking their mental pause moment with a quick chore rather than visiting with someone, they’re still probably using a similar amt of time.

    2. lilsheba*

      “Bottom line is this…you treat people like adults and provide flexibility, they will be more willing to put in the extra time and effort when it’s needed. But if you micromanage and clock watch them to death, you will get the bare minimum out of them, and they’ll constantly count the days until they can escape and work for someone willing to treat them properly.”

      Exactly!!!! I left a job where I was micromanaged to death and treated like a child, and just waited until I could leave. Now I’m in a place where I’m treated like an adult, and given that flexibility and yeah I’m a lot more willing to put in more than 100 percent! The previous place I schemed on how I could get time off every day without getting in trouble (of course they punished people for calling off sick or whatever).

    3. Loux in Canada*

      I have weeks where my productivity is nonexistent and weeks where I actually do a fair amount of stuff. Also, I’m getting shuffled around to other workflows that need help because my own workflow doesn’t have enough work to do and other departments need help. It all balances out in the end, I figure. And I am getting enough work done, so I try not to worry about those times I’m not very productive – I had those times in the office, too. In the office I tend to work myself so hard I burn out so this has been a good exercise in slowing down, even if sometimes I’m too slow!

  45. MistOrMister*

    It seems to me that a lot of the managers who think WFH isn’t actually working were already prone to micromanagement and just being bad managers. For someone that can’t function without eyeballs on their reports all day, of course WFH is going to frazzle them something awful. I am so glad I don’t work under anyone like that. My bosses basically leave you alone unless something goes wrong. And, I don’t know about other people in my department, but I feel like I am working more now than I was in the office. I have fewer distractions at home….no coworkers to stop to have a 2 minute chat with and then come to find out its an hour later!!!

  46. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Fortunately, my department head fully understands that most of us are just as productive at home as in the office, and some are even more productive because of not having to commute. He’s in no hurry to get us back in the office (on our alternating office-home days).

  47. Introvert girl*

    The problem is that these bosses don’t see their employees as adult human beings but as children that need to be monitored constantly.

  48. Art Director*

    I work as an Art Director at 2 weekly newspapers. I have been there for 37 years, doing the layouts and hiring photographers and illustrators. The department boss (who has only been there 7 years) routinely denied work-from-home prior to Covid. We have now been working from home for 5 months and we are putting out two newspapers entirely from home. Thankfully, the editor in chief has extended work-from-home until January.

    Yet, my boss still has a daily department-wide Zoom meeting where we have to go around and say what we are working on. It’s ridiculous. We’re working longer hours and being 100% productive.

  49. Mike*

    One thing that I was really glad for is that we were already monitoring our performances and had been for a few years. When COVID hit and we transitioned from home we just kept the same monitoring of performance. First sprint ended with the same performance, then the second sprint, then the third, etc. We just ended our 10th sprint from home and there has been consistent performance from the team. After the first few sprints were done we mentioned to the higher ups that our numbers were holding and they never asked again.

    And when we eventually go back to the office we’ll have data to back up the request for more telecommuting.

  50. Persephone Underground*

    For a positive counterpoint- our CEO was clearly concerned about the office going fully remote when this started. He instituted a slightly annoying Google spreadsheet where everyone would note their tasks for the day and later check them off, talked a lot about what a big change this was going to be etc. (He didn’t obsess or track us on the spreadsheet though, so we felt ok using it.)

    After a few months, he came around in a big way, to the point that he said productivity has been just as good remote as it was in the office, so the recent management decision to stay remote through December was easy! So yeah, some managers are jittery about it but can learn from experience that it works.

    (I still want my office baaaaack *tears*, when it’s safe of course, I am not a happy wfh person but I also got over it for now.)

  51. Chaordic One*

    I’m getting awfully annoyed with the tracking and time reporting that my office is doing with me while I WFH. During the day I’m so busy I can’t even think about looking at AAM. In the last 2 weeks they’ve sprung a new program that monitors the amount of time that I’m on the phone with clients. I was scolded because during 2 days of the week I had incorrectly inflated my total daily phone time by 12 minutes each. In addition to that we’re getting new metrics about how many correspondence cases we process and CLOSE in a given day. I wish I could process and close more cases, but they aren’t easy and often require a fair amount of research before you can do so. Today I had to apply a payment that had a nonexistent account number written on the check. It belonged to one of 11 different subsidiary accounts and I had to open records and look at 8 of the 11 accounts before I found the one where it belonged.

  52. Helen J*

    We were never allowed to WFH in the before times. There was an exception for the boss and one other director. Since I never worked from home, I never set-up a “home office”. Three days into our shelter-in-place, my boss called and wanted me to allow MIS to install company email on my phone, which of course allowed them to access everything on my phone and remote wipe it if necessary. I was like nope. I said I had a small laptop (it was more like a tablet with a keyboard, no office software) and they could set up work email on that. Then my boss wanted me to attend video meetings and take minutes. Ok, I can do that because my tablet had a camera. Then he wanted the notes in Word vs. email so I told him that I was going to need a company laptop with office software installed because we were reaching the limits of what I was capable of doing with the tablet. 3 weeks go by and they finally find a laptop and I am given a time to go the office and pick it up. We were closed but Security came in everyday. Ok, so get that and guess what? It had no camera and the battery was bad , so it had to stay plugged in all the time in order to be able to use it. Ugh.

    So WFH was harder for me because I didn’t have the proper equipment and set-up, but overall my boss admitted that I did pretty well considering my limits and if I had the proper equipment all along, it would have been probably 90% as productive as being in the office.

  53. Niniel*

    “But monitoring isn’t management. Effectively managing people from afar means setting clear work goals and assessing people’s progress against those, not making them account for how they’ve spent each minute of their workday.”

    1,000%!! But, how can you get this across to people?? I have never worked for someone who manages me this way, and that’s all I want. I think I would thrive in an environment like that. Someday maybe I can find that dream job.

  54. Random IT person on the internet*

    I`m tired after reading all these – and so, so happy that my work isn`t this way.
    Of course, i use a ticket system so my work is ‘monitored’ anyway. But no ‘daily meetings’ ‘to-do’ lists or forfeiting days off. (we were asked to plan some extra days off due to the pandemic – but those were really ‘days off’ – so no work was supposed to be done).

    What I really, really wonder – these monitoring midgets (i would not qualify them as real managers) do they even do their own work? Are they so insecure about their position they try to justify their existence by doing this?
    Seriously – if you sit behind a PC watching your employees/direct reports work – what do YOU do ? How is that not similar to ‘binging netflix’?

    It is that the jobmarket is rather ‘dynamic’ these days but otherwise i`d be out of there to better work

  55. JBeau*

    Not to rub it in our anything but…my company instituted summer Friday afternoons off to make up for the fact that everyone has been letting themselves get sucked in to working too much while WFH. And very strongly encouraging vacations/ staycations.

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