should staying remote when my coworkers go back to work mean I get left out of everything again?

A reader writes:

I have a question about being a full-time remote employee as things open up again and all the temporary work-from-home people go back in-person.

A few years ago, I moved states but kept my full-time job and became one of a handful of full-time remote employees at my small company. I knew at the time I was signing up to be the odd one out and accepted that I would miss out on parties, swag, social hours, etc. unless I flew back for a visit (which I did a couple times a year). My immediate team adapted really smoothly and my day-to-day work environment and relationships were great, so I wrote the other stuff off as not that important and enjoyed it when I got to visit in-person.

Cue the pandemic, everyone starts working full-time from home, everything goes online, and suddenly I’m included in everything. Gifts get mailed out, social hours are based around online games, parties are everyone ordering food and eating together on a video call. It feels surprisingly great, a real silver lining to an otherwise terrible year.

But lately, as more people have started to go back into the office, stuff is starting to move back to being in-person-centric in a way that leaves me out again. Last week we had a company-wide celebration of a big milestone we hit. They had a party in the office with lunch, cake, decorations, a photo booth, and a gift to take home. People who called in from home got to sit on the line for 10 minutes before they figured out the audio, listen to the few minutes of speeches, and then hang out on a Zoom call with music and party chatter, which made it impossible to even talk with other people on the zoom. Nobody has said anything about mailing out gifts if you can’t pick it up from the office.

I’m feeling really left out and down in the dumps about it, like I’ve abruptly been dropped back to the bottom of someone’s priority list. If I stop and think about it, I totally understand how all of this is reasonable and nobody is setting out to exclude me, and as someone who chose to move I did sign up for this, but it still feels disappointing and demoralizing. I know this trend is going to continue as people get vaccinated and the office goes back to normal in-person operations.

(I do expect that some of my coworkers will work from home more often than they used to, but those people would still go into the office for a big party/meeting or to pick up a gift, so I don’t think that’s really relevant to my question. I don’t know of anyone else who has moved away since the pandemic started.)

Should I talk to anyone at work about this? Either about this specific party flop or about remote stuff going forward? Is it reasonable to ask them to put in a little more money and effort to include people who chose to be full-time remote once everyone else is back in the office, or should I suck it up and quietly go back to my old status quo? I can’t decide if this is a legitimate employee satisfaction issue people would want to know about, or me whining about not getting a present. If I should bring it up, would it be best to raise this with my boss (director level, we have a good relationship but they’re juggling a lot of big priorities), someone in HR I have a strong relationship with, or approach the admin(s) who actually organize parties and stuff directly (who I’ve never met before)?

For reference here are the sorts of things I would like to happen:
– consistent A+ tier AV setup for people calling in to company-wide meetings or parties (live video AND slideshare, high-quality audio, ability to ask questions)
– if there’s swag/gifts, mail them to remote people without being asked, ideally a little early so we can open them at the same time the office does
– occasionally do social hour stuff online, like games/trivia
– if there’s a party (especially one to to recognize an accomplishment), coordinate sending a small gift/gift card/treat to anyone who can’t attend in person, and/or organize a way for people calling in to participate somehow
– I’m also open to suggestions from commenters on other easy and fun ways to include remote employees! Or just commiseration from other remote workers going through this weird little niche disappointment in an otherwise happy time.

These are pretty reasonable requests. Your company may or may not implement them, but it’s not whiny to suggest them.

You’re right that pre-pandemic this stuff felt a little different — the feeling tended to be more, “If you choose to move, you won’t be included in every in-office perk, but you’ll be getting a bunch of other perks, like no commute and working in yoga pants.” (That wasn’t the case everywhere, of course; I’m speaking generally.)

And realistically, we’ll probably drift back in that direction.

But we’ve seen over the past year that it’s actually not that hard to find ways to include remote staff in team perks. That increased understanding should lead to more thoughtfulness about continuing to do that even after other people return to the office.

And it’s not greedy to want that. Good employers care about morale, and they want their remote employees to feel recognized and included and like part of the team. It’s in their interests for you not to feel like your own little outpost separate from everyone else.

You probably need to ask for it, though. Being remote has always meant being more at risk of “out of sight, out of mind,” and if the majority of your team goes back to being in-person, you might need to speak up to ensure your needs don’t get overlooked.

Fortunately, you have a great list that most employers would like to see! It’s clear and concrete, and it’s things they’ve already been doing so they know it’s possible.

It might not be reasonable to expect all of it — in particular, calling into events where most other attendees are in-person will never be an ideal experience (because of technology and because of the way people socialize in-person vs. virtually). But your list is a good outline of the sorts of things your team should at least think about.

As for who to talk to, unless your boss is very hands-on about this kind of thing, I’d start with HR. If you don’t get far with them, try your boss next. Frame it as, “One thing that I really appreciated about the past year was being included in so many office celebrations that I previously didn’t get to be part of since I was remote. This last year, I felt really included in a way that was great for my morale and general cohesion with our team. Now that we’ve found ways to do that, can we keep it going even after some of the staff is back in the office?”

{ 142 comments… read them below }

  1. Clara*

    I was remote for a couple of year’s pre-covid and I think my company handled it reasonably well. Here are my general thoughts:

    1) Gifts – yes, definitely they should be mailed. Probably not early so you can open them with everyone else – that feels like a lot of coordination – but you should get them.

    2) Substantive work events – 100% there should be a call-in and you should be able to ask questions; these days, probably video too. Sometimes, for an informal thing, it’s easier for them to just email you the slides but you can talk about that on a case by case basis.

    3) Parties – probably not going to work to call in; there’s always going to be discrete chatter.

    4) Gift cards/food when there’s food in the office – I suspect most companies won’t do this and I’ve never asked nor have other remote workers at my company. Most of us try to make it back for the holiday party most years but if we don’t, it’s the same as in-town employees who can’t make it. Things like the Halloween happy hour are just not something we end up participating in.

    5) Online social hours – maybe but probably more likely to work with smaller groups, like you and the other remote employees or you and your particular team. And probably easiest if you take the lead on at least the first one.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      On food, agreed that you’re not going to be included in, like, Bagel Fridays — that’s part of choosing to be remote. But when everyone is gathering for some kind of celebration, it’s a realy nice gesture to do something for your remote people too.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        it’s a realy nice gesture to do something for your remote people too.

        You’re absolutely right, Alison, but my experience as well is that it’s above and beyond what’ll happen. It’s just part of not being physically present.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It really depends. I’ve worked with 2 orgs that did this really well (pre-pandemic) and it was hugely appreciated by their remote people. It can be done, and I think it’s going to happen more now that we’ve seen how doable it is.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’ve worked with 2 orgs that did this really well (pre-pandemic) and it was hugely appreciated by their remote people. It can be done, and I think it’s going to happen more now that we’ve seen how doable it is.

            Those sound like great places to work; if only more workplaces would aspire to greatness!

          2. A*

            Agreed! In regards to food, if there’s a larger celebration etc. and the office is getting catered meals my employer will authorize all remote employees to use their company credit card to order foods (typically with a $30 budget). It’s always worked out pretty well. We have a few colleagues in extremely remote areas that don’t have access to take out/delivery etc. so they just use it at the grocery store or order pantry items online. Not always perfect, but close enough!

        2. Le Sigh*

          I was in-person before the pandemic and during a meeting a few months into this, a few coworkers who are always remote noted they actually feel more connected and included–both in terms of the actual work and the overall office life/culture. And they felt more valued overall and better able to do their work.

          Which to me meant we were failing them before. Yes, they get some perks by being remote but I think a company that truly cares about fostering a strong work environment would *want* to keep that feeling going, for all employees to feel included and part of the team. It doesn’t mean every single perk can be replicated fully or identically, but I do think that if companies are going to have remote as an option, they need to be intentional and thoughtful each time they make decisions about perks, communications systems, funding allocation, tools, whatever. It shouldn’t be a nice to have, it should be part of running a good workforce!

      2. Spicy Tuna*

        If remote staff can expense items through a company credit card or similar, perhaps they could buy themselves a snack on the company dime when the celebrations happen? We did that for our remote holiday party – the company gave us a max amount we could each spend and let us buy whatever we wanted for ourselves. Gift cards could work for this too but then the onus is on the company to send them out in time.

        1. Super Admin*

          I am the sole UK member of a team otherwise based in the US. When party favours are arranged for them at an outrageous cost I get to expense a supermarket gift card at an equivalent price and get myself some party food plus quite a few groceries!

        2. Reba*

          I’ve written about this here before, my spouse used to work remotely for a small firm that loved to treat employees n partners to a fancy dinner* once a year. They would reimburse him for the cost per head they spent on everyone else, which was a generous meal in our LCOL town! It definitely made him feel thought of.

          *I know this is problematic but in this case it was well appreciated by all involved. We did eventually attend one of these team dinners in person.

        3. Hit my head Glass Ceiling*

          My understanding is that gift cards are taxable (cash equivalent) and food provided to employees is not. The employers would have to be willing to provide a paycheck mark up to cover the employee’s taxes.

    2. DAMitsDevon*

      The only thing I could suggest about food is maybe providing a gift card or small stipend with the intent of purchasing snacks to enjoy during a significant work party? Of course, it’s trickier when people are in the office (like do they also get a gift card or do they not because they can have refreshments provided in the office?), but when we had our company-wide employee recognition party via Zoom earlier this year, everyone was given $30 to purchase refreshments for themselves. We were not given stipends to get refreshments for things like virtual baby showers and happy hours though.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        We do this for team meetings for the group I have two permanently remote folks on – we send them an e-gift card to their local joint of choice, and they can eat with the rest of us during the meeting. (In normal times, we also pay them to come and see is a few times a year, and we always schedule a nicer team luncheon for one of those visits.)

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      We’ve recently been told to stop giving gift cards for staff birthdays (something to do with taxable income), so now we have to purchase physical items. Unfortunately it’s a lot more challenging to choose and send an actual food item, especially considering various dietary requirements and shipping conditions (will the chocolate melt? Will the fruit bouquet be edible?). I would probably hope for/expect something at major annual celebrations (perhaps a bottle of wine in lieu of the company holiday party?) but honestly it’s so much work for the admin team I would completely understand if it didn’t happen.

      I care more about being included in the strategic and social opportunities and feeling like a fully valued member of the team, more than whether I get a treat if everyone else is getting something.

      1. Malarkey01*

        The other hard thing with food is that if you’re getting a fruit tray, cake, veggie tray the cost per employ is like 10 cents for the 2 strawberries, 1 carrot, and piece of cake Wakeen ate. I can’t order that for Remote Randy so the costs get out of whack fast- which might be fine if there are 1-5 Randys but in the future might have a lot more remote.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      The one caveat I am going to add – speaking from 14 months of experience – is that remote swag and remote meals and other remote perks are much more expensive on a per-person basis.

      Examples: I can get a really (really) good lunch in catering trays for $10 per person, delivery included. When people are ordering Door Dash to eat lunch at a remote meeting, they can’t find much in our area for under $25, once you count in delivery fees.

      Or say I put together a really nice gift package full of cute swag, gift wrap it, attach a nice note. Handing it out in the office is cost free, once all that is done. Boxing it up and mailing it out to each individual employee at their home is going to involve two full extra days of in-person work for me and an additional $30-40 per person for packing materials and shipping costs (we are not a business that does shipping and packing otherwise, so we don’t get bulk rates or have regular pickups).

      If the person doing your event planning is on a budget, this is a real obstacle – especially as a lot of events/wellness budgets were cut on the assumption they wouldn’t be needed in 2020. I am lucky that my company just upped the budget to account for this, but not every company was in a position to do this during a tough year.

      1. D3*

        I think it would be better then to do fewer events that can be inclusive to remote employees than frequent events that exclude them.
        Do things every other month instead of monthly, or every 6 months instead of quarterly.
        But saying “you guys are more expensive so we’re excluding you” is just awful.

        1. Elbe*

          Excluding them entirely isn’t a good path to take, but I disagree that the company has to include them in everything, even if it would greatly inflate the expense to the point where in-person employees would have significantly fewer perks. And I say this as a remote employee.

          There are very real, very massive perks to working remotely. Remote workers have no commute, they’re often able to live in lower-cost areas, they don’t have the same dress code requirements, many have more flexibility with their schedule, many have the freedom to change locations without changing jobs, etc. That’s a lot. If the perks didn’t outweigh the drawbacks, everyone would just choose to be in-person.

          If someone hauls themselves – fully dressed – to the office every single day, I’m okay with them getting a happy hour every quarter. If they’re working in an environment where anyone can wander up to them and ask them questions at any time, I’m not going to get fussed over them getting a pizza party. And if they have to share a bathroom with all of their colleagues, I feel very okay about them having Bagel Friday without me.

          It just goes with the territory. Unless the in-person “perks” are truly expensive, I don’t think it would be an issue for most people.

          1. Malarkey01*

            +100 as a one time remote worker I agree and as someone who was an in-person worker I also agree. You can’t take perks away from the in person ones at the expense of the remote ones, and if the costs of remote workers goes up that’s an incentive for the company to disallow it all together.

          2. Kate*

            I agree.

            And honestly I love working remotely because I do not want to dress up, or to do “team building!” or be given swag that is just branded clutter that I really. do. not. want.

            If there was a Zoom happy hour I would force myself to attend maybe quarterly, but would NOT want to zoom in to attempt to chit chat with people on site. My perk is closing my laptop and logging off and I’m home.

            As more and more studies show: PAY PEOPLE. Did the team pull off a big win? Bonus out the team members. I do not want a watch. I do not want a glass paperweight. THROW ME A BONUS.

            I will never forget being bone tired and having a lot on my plate and being “treated” to an awards dinner in San Francisco, when I lived in Portland. That means boarding the dog, getting up at dawn to go to the airport, flying down, time in cabs, time in a middling hotel, a dinner (and a watch!), doing it all over again the next day to fly back, pick up the dog, cab back home. Yes they compensated me for every expense. But it took two days out of my life to be “awarded” when what I really would have loved would have been the cash they spent on this trip and award dinner and watch. THAT would have made me really happy.

            Give bonuses, not swag!

            1. Clara*

              Eh, I don’t really want a paperweight or a watch either, but I also think it’s reasonable to expect some stuff will be in person bonding rather than money, which it sounds like that dinner was. I wouldn’t want that to be mandatory but it doesn’t seem unreasonable once in a blue moon for remote folks to inconvenience themselves for a team event.

              1. Kate*

                I can see that side of it. I would have loved a choice about it all, because I had to schedule the two day trip as my two days off that week (which they knew, that was part of it), and so not only did I spend two days traveling, and all that entails (dawn, dog, etc.) but it was all a tiring hassle that was unpaid, for a nice 90 minute dinner. So I was pretty salty about it. I would have perhaps felt differently if my being at a required awards dinner to give *me* an award meant that I wasn’t going to lose two days of pay in the bargain. In that instance I would have preferred to stay home, work at my satellite space, *and* get a bonus. I would have even called in on zoom to say thank you ;)

            2. scmill*

              I’m with you! I worked remotely on an IT Design/Development team for over 10 years, and I really just wanted to be left alone for frivolous stuff. Not having to commute into an office or get dressed up and being able to take a quick walk or nap or haircut during my lunch break were all the perks I needed.

              1. abcd*

                I’ll gladly trade a pizza party, fancy coffee mug, or free lunch to being able to wear leggings, pet my dog, and step outside to take a phone call any day of the week. For me, these at-home perks make it worth missing out on in-office perks.

        2. Cakeroll*

          I agree that having a stance of “you’re more expensive so we’re excluding you” is too cold and short-sighted. People who use more of the healthcare benefit are more expensive, people who require more PTO are more expensive – yes, it takes planning and effort (budgeting, as HarvestKaleSlaw notes) to make it work, but that work is worth doing. Also, in most cases, remote workers are actually saving the company significant money – lower office footprint, decreased equipment costs, office supplies, parking reimbursement, etc. depending on each company’s expenses. Surely the $20 to ship a t-shirt nets out evenly, when what you get is a more engaged, higher-morale employee? Turnover costs much, much more!

          1. Clara*

            Depends on whether you’re paying travel expenses when they come to the home office and also depends on the tax implications of having employees in random places. I think I cost my company significant money being remote.

          2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            I don’t know where “You guys are more expensive so we’re excluding you” came from. As I said, we moved our events remote this year as much as possible because *everyone* was remote – but it was much more expensive than in a normal year.

            I don’t know in normal times whether remote employees are more or less expensive than in person – it depends on a lot – but in 2020 that was not the case. Most companies were still locked into leases and long-term contracts for office space and services. Having everyone suddenly remote in 2020 saved zero money – quite the reverse. We were paying rent and electric inclusion and ISP and security – and also paying people to outfit their home offices. During COVID the choice wasn’t this expense versus that one – it was how to pay both.

            1. Clara*

              Yeah, I think people forget that companies weren’t saving any money on their commercial leases over the last year. In the long run they can start shedding office space, but in the short run, there’s not much flexibility. Our lease generally runs for 5-6 years at a time.

              And even long-term, one remote person or even a handful isn’t going to save much money on overhead; office space isn’t that finely grained usually.

        3. Clara*

          I don’t think it’s awful. Yeah, you should spend the extra money on shipping for gifts and swag and maybe some other stuff (Alison says above she’s worked with companies who do that, though mine doesn’t and I don’t feel slighted). But my office has a fair number of “in-office perks” – biweekly Friday happy hours in the conference room, monthly lunch-and-learns, La Croix in the fridge. When I moved to remote, I joked that I never anticipated how much my La Croix budget would sky rocket, but I hardly expected them to send me lunch for the lunch-and-learn instead of just providing a dial-in and it would seem ludicrous to switch happy hours to once a month so they can send me some beer.

          But honestly, I feel treated fairly – they pay for my plane flight and lodging when I come to the home office, they let me expensive start-up office equipment, etc. Me being here is costing them money in a lot of ways and has no real benefit to them.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is how we handle our remote staff. If everyone is getting something, it gets shipped to them. We provide office equipment shipped on our dime. We pay for travel, lodging, and expenses when they fly in. When we have scheduled team meetings, we send them an e-gift card for lunch. If we last-minute order in lunch because it’s an insane day and we don’t have time for people to leave the office for food, we’re not going to send them lunch, too, nor do we send Monday pastries or a set of our kitchen pantries supplies (beverages, snacks, and condiments).

          2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            “But honestly, I feel treated fairly” – I think this is the key point. If you feel included and valued and treated well, you won’t care as much about the little things. If those big pieces are lacking, that’s when the little details start to stack up psychologically.

            1. Clara*

              Yeah and, to be clear, I have plenty of complaints about my job/workplace. But thinking it over, how I’ve been treated on remote work is not one of them even though it has never been “1:1 equitable” with people in the office.

        4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          “But saying “you guys are more expensive so we’re excluding you” is just awful.”

          I LITERALLY just said we didn’t do that.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Right! It’s very easy to handwave and say things like “organise a way to participate somehow” or “put in a little more effort” but most of these things are practical, logistical issues. Many of them can be solved with sufficient money/time, but these apparently small gestures are often a lot more complicated to organise than people think.

      2. please do not refer to me*

        This is a great point. I’m the admin on my team and am in charge of coordinating small parties (holiday party, major work and life milestones, etc). This got way more expensive once we were all remote, and the “bang for buck” shrunk as well. One of my coworkers got married in 2018, and we took her out to lunch on the corporate credit card for about $300. In 2021 she had a baby, and I spent a similar amount to bake cookies and mail them to everyone, and then send her a gift from her registry. Pre-Covid even cookies from a bakery vs. home baked would have been seen as not even worthy of a “work party”.

        Once we are all back in person, I just don’t think companies are going to be able to keep pace to offer comparable things to workers who remain remote.

  2. Person from the Resume*

    I agree with LW for some of these things – the gift/rewards, being included in all company meetings.

    I disagree that they should include remote people in in-person parties (versus meetings or announcements partially because that’s just strikes me as really difficult) or online social hour (once we’re freed from COVID restrictions will anyone want to socialize online? I was tired of social zoom things about 6 months ago). OTOH I wouldn’t enjoy these things so I am biased.

    This is a good time, though, to remind people that you are the only permanent long distance remote employee and ask that they remember to include you in swag and gifts/rewards.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      What about remote social events for those who are remote that are simultaneous with the on-site part? It sounds like LW isn’t the only remote employee? There could be a broadcast of the presentation part (like award recognition in the letter) and then when it’s more socializing, there could be a zoom room for remote folks? I agree that trying to socialize with people who are live in person will be difficult. This would let those who are remote at least chat with each other and celebrate at the same time.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, if there’s a significant number of people who mostly get along. If it’s one or two people who barely tolerate each other it’s not going to be fun.

    2. Legal Beagal*

      Yes, I totally agree. Very few people enjoy Zoom parties/social events and it really does not work to have some people on Zoom and some not (we tried it). Maybe the remote employees can do something with one another, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the in-person people to include remote people in social events.
      Meetings are a different story.

      1. Kate*

        This reminds me of: “could this meeting be an email?”

        The last thing I want to do is have more zoom meetings, or zoom socials, or zoom team builds!

      2. doreen*

        Meetings and award presentations are one thing – those can be done virtually. But the couple of Zoom social events I’ve been involved in have not really been social events , where I might be having a conversation with Liz while Ken and Steve are having an entirely separate conversation a couple of feet away and then after a few minutes, I might be talking to Ken while Liz is now talking to John. They were more like meetings, with only one conversation going on at a time.

        There were a couple of weddings I attended pre-COVID that had some people attending virtually due to distance – and there’s a reason the virtual part really only included the ceremonies and not the entire hours-long receptions.

    3. Dino*

      Disabled people from many backgrounds are hoping virtual events won’t go away, that asynchronous and transcribed/interpreted gatherings will continue to be the norm. We don’t have to request accommodations and fight with organizers to include us and bear some cost in doing so. We are kept out of many public and private spaces and COVID helped make the world more accessible and equitable in way that disabled people have been asking for for decades.

      *This is not a universal truth or meant to elide how disabled people have also been some of the most deeply impacted by the pandemic.

  3. Lynn*

    LW, could you help participate in the planning of these events? I know it depends on the office set up but my team had a mini committee to help with this type of stuff.

    I am not saying that I think you should have to help plan in order to be included, but if you have the bandwidth, it might be a very easy path to make sure you are included

    1. Momma Bear*

      I like this angle. People who are in the office and thinking about in the office aren’t going to consider all the logistics of being remote. When I was remote PT, if there was an event I could either skip it or I could attend just that event (I lived within an hours’ drive) for the day. Is that ever an option? Many orgs also require you to be on site (if local) x times per month/pay period, which could be a time to pick up materials, gifts, etc. I did work fully remote from one of my offices (another state) and while it was kind of a bummer not to attend the fancy holiday party, we did get end of year bonuses/gifts, which was nice.

  4. MissDisplaced*

    Food is difficult. But if they are giving people swag or gifts of some type, I am of the opinion that ALL employees should get those sent to them.

    As far as having parties with a AV or Zoom component, I think that employees should be invited if there are speeches and talks and Q&A type stuff, but it’s probably not as realistic to expect video social or happy hours. It’s not wrong that you feel you’ll be left out on some of these work social things post-Pandemic though. This is the one unfortunate side of WFH.

  5. Smithy*

    I do wonder if there might be a greater organization strategy component that the OP could tie this suggestion to? I joined a new org as a %100 remote employee during COVID, but also during a time where positions were under greater consideration for when they might be 100% remote as a way to expand the talent pool. This fed into larger strategy ambitions beyond strictly considering staff being remote or in HQ.

    While staff morale and engagement are worthy on their own, I do think that the list might be received with different eyes if it tied to goals such as staff retention.

      1. Smithy*

        I will admit, that for my organization – this would be particularly impactful because it’s tied to diversity and equity initiatives. So to then come back and say “part of your DEI initiative has been to increase inclusion of 100% remote staff – those staff can remain best integrated into the organization via high quality engagement with those staff, and here are some suggestions.”

        While this approach might not work for the OP, if there are some strategies that this would connect to – it’s coming from a place of helping the whole workplace meet their goals.

  6. Properlike*

    You’re not whiny. I’m a member of several orgs. In the past, the excuse was “it’s too hard” to try to include remote people in meetings/events/whatever. Now, we don’t have that excuse!

    I expect some aspect of it will carry over if people campaign for it. And I expect “Zoom fatigue” will be less in the New Times because we will have more in-person interaction to offset it.

  7. Maybe Relevant*

    I’m with my second company as one of the few remote employees…

    Things that I asked for at my last company that they did start to implement:
    – When doing things like blood drives or other community activities, find ways to include remote employees by doing things like “Next Friday is Teapot Industries company wide blood donation drive. For those in office, we will have the bus parked outside. For those who are remote here are redcross blood donation sites, so you can donate too”.
    – Coordinate parties/milestone events with things that would normally bring remote folks back to the office. For example Sales Kick Off with the annual company party
    – swag that wasn’t issued as part of the annual kick off would get mailed. It might not have arrived the same day, but it arrived.

    Just acknowledging the existence of us remote folks helped.

    My current company, even though few of us are remote, we are already multi-location so some of this stuff was already in place because of having a west coast and east coast office.

    1. Cakeroll*

      I don’t mean to hijack your incredibly useful comment and great suggestions, but I hope to use the mention of blood donation to remind folks that some common workplace initiatives like blood drives or donations to non-secular organizations can unintentionally exclude members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to the considerations of how to include remote workers, we can also work to include ALL workers in the things we plan. American Red Cross has an info page on the topic:

      1. Lisa*

        Yeah, I never donated blood at any of my work blood drives for this reason. I could, but I won’t.

      2. Clara*

        I mean, I’m very, very against their discriminatory policies, but in the meantime, blood donation is still really important. Pressuring people to donate blood when they might have any number of reasons for being ineligible is a different issue.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Also, there’s a meaningful difference between “this thing is happening, here are ways to participate” versus “but WHYYYY aren’t you taking part?” which can happen whether you’re in-person or remote.

  8. Gawaine*

    There’s some difference in things that are free and just require thoughtfulness, vs. things that require money. Maybe there shouldn’t be…. but usually, there’s a difference in the way that companies manage overhead and administrative costs for remote employees vs. local employees. Remote employees often are either seen as cheaper, or the money that would go to facilities and swag instead goes as their share of remote networking/cybersecurity costs. I suspect you’ll get further with the things that are free and require thinking than you will with anything that requires them to spend money on you, particularly more money.

    Meanwhile, if you want to be social and hang out with people on Zoom, there’s no reason this has to be a corporate mandated thing. In fact, if it comes across as “Neville really wants to hang out with everyone online still, so we’re going to have a computer here just for Neville,” that’s probably going to drive a wedge between you and them. If you’ve made friendships with people, then ask them – those people you’re closest to – if you can have zoom meetings with them. Sign up for virtual paint nights together.

  9. CoffeeLady*

    My company has a party committee so it doesn’t fall on one person. We have found that it is more expensive to sent swag and food to individuals at their home then a large group order sent to the office. Instead we decided to do different perks. Remote employees get $25 monthly stipend to “treat themselves” added to a check to replace in office food, swags, parties, snacks, etc. sometimes we will send them free grocery delivery or coffee on us and have them submit an expense.

    We have one online party once a year to where we hire an artist and all do a painting in front of our laptops. We do ship the art supplies to remote employees.

  10. Allison Tom*

    As a disabled person who has seen the world become so so much more accessible during the pandemic, this is one element of “returning to ‘normal'” I am really not looking forward to. Wouldn’t it be great if those of us who always will have trouble attending things in person we’re not forgotten?

  11. Black Horse Dancing*

    Oh, I agree with Lynn. LW, volunteer to help coordinate these things. If a remote employee sets it up or helps out, they can remind the coordinators about the remote staff. Don’t expect the in house staff to do the work and then be upset if remote is not thought of.

  12. exhausted*

    I don’t know. Some of this sounds hard. I’m in a situation right now where I was asked to teach an in-person course (100 college students) in an outdoor space with hastily-set-up AV. I have a generous attendance policy, so the course is also being Zoomcasted for people who are taking a remote day. Some students are complaining about the quality of the online experience. It’s hard for them to ask questions, and they want me to put them in breakout rooms when the in-person students are discussing a problem. I read that, and I just CAN’T. I can’t deal with Zoom questions and in-person questions and classroom management at the same time (I’d need more screens for that, for one, so I could see Zoom and my slides simultaneously, and more ability to switch attention), and Zoom breakout rooms have a significantly different (slower) cadence than in-person discussions. I also feel like I need to prioritize the 90 people who made the effort to show up in person and not have their experience degraded by the 10 who signed up for an in-person course but are choosing to take a remote day. (There are 3 other completely remote sessions of same course offered this term, by the way.) Would the answer be different in my situation?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, totally different situation! You’re one person being asked to do multiple jobs simuntaneously; that’s different than asking a company to set up systems that support people who are working remotely.

    2. shuu_iam*

      I wonder if that’s a problem of setting expectations as much as anything else. If you took a moment to tell students, preferably at the start of the semester but now would also work, that you’re providing the generous attendance policy and ability to view lectures from home for x reasons, but that you will be focusing the bulk of your attention on in-person students. So you recommend that they attend classes in person whenever possible, and they can email you questions after the class if something was unclear. If they know what to expect, that might be easier for them to adjust to than if they’re coming in with expectations that aren’t being met.

    3. Libervermis*

      I just wanted to send solidarity elbow bumps. I can do in person, I can do online, I can do hybrid, but flex is an utter teaching nightmare for anything non-lecture. Especially when it’s an unknown number of students on a given day who will choose remote.

    4. Marni*

      It sounds to me like everything they’re asking for requires a dedicated assistant who would be handling the zoom connection – – relaying questions to you, organizing people into and out of breakout rooms. If the school can’t provide that person, then it makes sense that you don’t have two heads and four hands. I agree with the suggestion that you clarify expectations with the students: this isn’t a remote class, it’s a streaming feed for their convenience of a class they are observing, not attending.

  13. Pizza Party Trauma*

    When we had an office celebration when everyone was in person, it took maybe an hour max to order a pile of pizzas, figure out something for people with dietary restrictions, and pick up the food. When we have remote celebrations, we have to start ordering pizzas 2-3 days before the event so that we have time to put in everyone’s order. So it goes from an hour of 1-2 people’s time to 3-4 days of a team of 5+’s time, and the overall cost to pay for unique pizzas for each person, plus delivery to at least 4x the cost.

    Also sometimes the cost/logistics of delivering something to individual’s houses is way more expensive than getting a group order sent to one location. We also have some employees in different countries, and we can’t afford the additional $300+ shipping to send certain things. (Currently the process is to ask them to purchase something similar locally and we reimburse them, or at least ask them for a local website we can order from). Coworkers overseas got different candy than the chocolate we mailed because it wouldn’t have made it lol.

    Our plan is to have a mix of in person events, along with remote events so that everyone has something they can chose to participate in. It does mean that unfortunately some people will have less events that they can join than others, but we can’t support 100% all the time, we just aim to cover everyone over different events.

    (Sorry that it turned into a rant, ordering individual pizzas on top of my normal work load is/was exhausting)

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      Yep! Sending food to dispersed staff is WAY more time consuming and expensive than catering something in the office. Like, 5x times.

    2. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

      “Currently the process is to ask them to purchase something similar locally and we reimburse them, or at least ask them for a local website we can order from.”

      Why couldn’t this be done for the pizza vs it all falling on your shoulders? Sounds like management fail, tbh.

      1. Evan Þ.*

        I’d love that. Maybe send out some restaurant suggestions if you have them, but in general, I’d love expense-paid food from my favorite restaurant more than food from whatever place my team admin chooses.

      2. ScarletB*

        Maybe, but that shifts the workload-increase to the accounts team who have to process extra food reimbursements, likely to be small and relatively numerous – I’m assuming the purchase-reimburse is dealing with items like essential equipment (tech, furniture etc), based on the shipping cost.

    3. abcd*

      And after ordering the pizzas, you have to spend time prepping the area the pizza will be delivered, if the pizzas are shared figuring out how to distribute, getting employees to come get their pizza, etc. So much.

  14. Lucette Kensack*

    I think… some of what you’re asking for is reasonable, and some is not, and the more focused you can be on the things that a) you really care about and b) they might actually do, the more successful you will be.


    1) A+ AV setup: 100% for meetings. No for parties. Can you actually imagine a way that a party where 90% of people are in person and you’re logging in remotely would be fun?

    2) Gifts: Yes, you should be sent gifts. No, they probably won’t get them to you early.

    3) Social hours online: Probably not. Bluntly, online social stuff usually isn’t much fun; I’m guessing your in-person colleagues would skip out on these.

    4) Gifts in lieu of party attendance: Yes, this makes sense — a food basket, a gift certificate, etc. Having a call-in aspect to an in-person party? As I said before, unlikely. Maybe a very brief call in where everyone says hello and you hear any speeches/etc.

    1. Naomi*

      Agree completely. And then I would suggest the LW take the lead on organizing the on-line social hours/parties for just the remote employees. They said it was a small office, so its not a lot of overhead to throw a zoom meeting invite out there, maybe google a fun virtual game to play. Easy way to meet your own needs. But agreed that I would not expect any of the in-person employees to attend. If I never have to do another zoom happy hour in my life, it will still be too soon.

      1. TWW*

        Post pandemic, I wouldn’t expect most remote workers to attend either. Why would I choose to socialize on Zoom when I can meet local friends in person?

        1. Anonymity*

          Exactly. This is part of the package when accepting a full work from home position. I’d love to be able to WFH but my presence is essential.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Yeah, the idea of sitting and watching other people at a party would be grating. I get that FOMO can be powerful, but that sounds about as fun as the hour I spent watching a friend talking to everyone else at her baby shower while she unwrapped blurry packages.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      Agreed with all of this. Re: social stuff online, I think that OP needs to be mindful that for a lot of people it won’t just be the normal level of not-that-much-fun, but something they’re actively sick and tired of. A lot of us are basically in a state of permanent Zoom fatigue, and I think that as restrictions lift many people will be especially unwilling to do yet another Zoom trivia night when they could be, you know, down the pub or seeing their families or at their knitting group or doing literally any of the things that have been off the table for so long. If they’re going to suggest more virtual socialising at all I think that for best results they should wait a while until people have gotten some of the urge for in-person activities out of their systems.

      1. Elbe*

        Agreed. And I also don’t know how the LW would picture the virtual trivia happening.

        Would all of her coworkers be together in-person, but she would be on Zoom? Would everyone be on zoom, even if they are sitting next to each other? Would it be optional and outside of work hours, where the coworkers would commute home and then log back on?

        Because none of those things sound particularly good. The best speaker in the world won’t pick up conversations happening when there’s a lot of people in the same room – I bet she wouldn’t like it even if they tried it for her. Dialing into the zoom individually while sitting next to each other is super awkward. No one is going to log back on to work once they’re home with their families/pets/hobbies/chores.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Right, exactly. I get the desire for this kind of thing but logistically it’s hard.

          And I think the same logistical problems are going to make participation in parties difficult. As you say, even really good speakers won’t do well with a whole room full of different conversations, and in any case there’s a huge difference between how people interact IRL versus how they interact with a screen that I don’t think is very compatible with how parties work. If you’re appearing via computer screen you can’t mingle, you can’t really casually converse in a group, you can’t bond over how boring the canapés are or whatever. It kind of turns any interaction into either the person on the screen holding court or the person on the screen sitting listening to chatter that they aren’t really part of, which is what it sounds like happened to OP. It can work fine for meetings but parties are about flow and atmosphere, which are not exactly the strong points of videoconferencing software. I’m not sure there’s a simple solution to that.

      2. justabot*

        Plus everyone going back to the office is likely getting their fix of work/social interactions. The last thing some workers want to do is get online and look at the same people they are dealing with in person all day. They may actually need to decompress, get a break from these people and use their social time on their own friends and families.

      3. Willis*

        This. I honestly couldn’t imagine being expected to come home from or stay late at an office to get on Zoom for a social activity, now or once the pandemic is done. Other remote workers may be interested and you could certainly invite a larger group, but it seems like a hard sell and an unreasonable expectation.

    4. MsClaw*

      Agreed, remote attendance at parties seems like a non-starter.

      Online social stuff — I’m not social with colleagues so I realize I’m not super helpful here, but all the online social stuff that’s been organized in my office over this time has been put together by the people who cared about doing it. Like, Guy X set up an online trivia meetup and send out the invite. If having social events with the other remote people and/or the people back in the office is important to you it’s probably going to be on you to try to set it up.

      The OP didn’t mention food but I’m seeing that lot in the comments. At times I’ve worked with a group where like 80% of the team is in one place, the rest scattered around. About once a year the team lead would arrange to have food sent to the people who didn’t sit with the 80% so we could all eat together in the middle of a day-long meeting — but that was that team lead. It wasn’t a ‘company’ thing. My point is you might have better luck looking at options like that with the particular team you work with, like if your team has a monthly meeting you dial into where pizza is provided maybe your team lead could make that happen for you somehow. But you’re probably not getting a cupcake for every birthday cake in the breakroom.

    5. twocents*

      Agreed on the zoom social hours. Unless the social parties are during work time, I’d be surprised if you could get people to show up more than once. And even then… I like my team but not so much that I’d be willing to trade off working later to entertain them.

      Pre-COVID, I had coworkers who I’d grab sushi after work with once a month or so, but it wasn’t the whole staff, just my two friends. I think LW would be better off reaching out to her friends to do something, and if she’s not that close to anyone, then maybe take that as motivation to foster other social circles.

    6. Allonge*

      For gifts instead of party attendance, I would franky expect a large number of non-remote staff to want to go for that option too. That does not make it unreasonable, but for a lot of people a choice between an extra gift (certificate) in December and a ‘holiday party’ attendance, it would be a no-brainer for the gift. And if this was only an option for remote employees, that would not play well.

      So, yeah, it’s complicated.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        That occurred to me. I can definitely seeing the more work anti-social types asking for the gift/gift-card/food delivery instead of the part attendance/coffee hour/happy hour, in spite of being in person and completely able to attend. However, a work-social event designed for employees to mix and interact, and a Starbucks gift card, are totally different things, with different goals, and it’s not unreasonable for an employer not to want to swap one for the other en masse.

        I do think that a gift-in-lieu could be set up to be for people who are physically unable to come to the party – remote workers who are out of the area, and anyone who has to work during the party (which sometimes happen in coverage positions, or with work travel), not an option for people who simply don’t like interacting with their coworkers.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. For some people, interacting with a lot of people at once is very stressful. I’m a chatty introvert, I like talking to people and large groups don’t normally make me anxious or anything, but a two-day conference leaves me utterly exhausted. I’m just glad that the one I attended before the pandemic and hope to attend again is always on Thursday and Friday. It means I get the weekend after to rest before I have to think about work. This doesn’t mean that I hate big parties or that I’m antisocial, it’s just that while I can enjoy a big party, it leaves me exhausted to the point that I have to plan for it, even if I don’t drink more than one or two alcoholic drinks at most and then switch to mocktails or non-alcoholic beer depending on the venue. And this will mean that sometimes I’ll conclude that an event I’m invited to isn’t worth attending.

        2. Allonge*

          Sure, that is reasonable for the remote people, but a lot of others (extreme introverts, those who are not that keen on socialising with their coworkers, those who may be having money troubles) are going to see this as the remote workers getting out of attending an event that is not very desirable AND getting paid extra for it. If this is about morale and feeling included, that will be a major negative for that group.

          It’s a balancing act.

  15. Colette*

    I’ve worked on teams where everyone was in different locations; I’ve worked on teams where everyone except one person was in one location, and one person was remote. In the first scenario (which is kind of where we are now, while entire offices are working online), it’s easy to include everyone. In the second scenario, it’s more complex.

    I’d say that for big meetings, it’s absolutely reasonable for you to be included, including a way to ask questions, even if that way is “you type them into the chat and someone in the meeting reads them out.

    For gifts, mailing them out is reasonable (although I wouldn’t expect to get them early).

    For parties, I’d say you’re out of luck. When most people are in person, they’re going to want to socialize in person. Maybe your team would be willing to do something online, but larger parties won’t want to give up the benefits of being in person to benefit one person. And mostly in person with an online link doesn’t work well for parties.

    This is, of course, assuming that most people go back to the office, which may not happen. No one knows yet what the work world will look like post-pandemic; if 50% of people stay at home full time, the choices may look different.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. Even before the pandemic, my team had two people working in another office. The local team would meet in one conference room and our remote team members would call in from their offices. It was noticeable that unless the chair took very good care to include even the remote members, it was harder for them to make their voices heard than for the rest of us.

      Later we switched to Skype, even when most of us were in the local office. The remote team members said that they started to feel much more included when we were on Skype. It has to be said, though, that being in a Skype meeting with someone in the same room feels weird, because there’s a noticeable lag. One of the remote members switched to another team last year, and the other is retiring later this year. As a part of our exit strategy, they’re planning on rewriting the rules of WFH sometime this year, so we’ll see what consequences, if any, the new rules will have for WFH in the future. It will be available in some form or other, just as it was before the pandemic, but we’ll see how regulated it will be. I hope they’ll be able to trust employees to largely know what suits them best and keep mandated visits to the office to a minimum.

  16. Elbe*

    Honestly, I think a lot of this comes down to whether or not the company wants to encourage remote work. If they prefer to have employees in-person and already feel like they’re being accommodating by allowing remote work in the first place, they probably won’t put in the extra effort to make it more comfortable.

    It also matters how many people are on the LW’s and how many of them are remote. If the LW is the only remote person on a large team, I think it’s unlikely that they will invest in organizing online meetups – in the same way that they probably wouldn’t organize happy hours in the suburbs to accommodate the one employee that didn’t live in the city. It would be very awkward for everyone to be dialed into a virtual happy hour while 99% of them are sitting in the same room.

    Part of allowing employees to be remote is providing them with access to mandatory company meetings, so it’s entirely reasonable to ask that their sound equipment be sufficient. There’s also a pretty strong case for swag being mailed. But I’m not sure how much luck the LW will have regarding optional events not on company time.

    That said, there’s nothing stopping the LW from organizing little events. I have organized many informal gatherings for my company. If the LW has a few people who they want to socialize with in particular, it would be a good start to reach out.

  17. Tuesday*

    I’m in this same situation now, but I would be reluctant to ask people to make additional effort to accommodate me, especially now when I worry that some people may feel some resentment over not being allowed to continue to work from home full time. I don’t know if they will feel that way, but I can imagine some might.

    In general, I would be hesitant to put more work on the party planners anyway — selecting and sending out gifts to whoever is working remotely sounds like kind of a pain, unless it’s something that occurs very infrequently. If someone offers though, that’d be great.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Hopefully there are some solutions they could think of that don’t make extra work for people, or very little.

      I’m in the office 75% of the time for a VERY small company (so easy to be socially distant that we’ve actually been back in the office for a while). My coworker is our on-site supervisor for projects, so he’s only in the office 5% of the time. Just because I’m here and more visible/present, I get free lunch all the time. My boss will buzz my office phone and say, “Hey! Getting lunch delivery! What would you like from Bagel Bagel?”

      It would be pretty easy for my boss to also send a text my coworker and say, “Hey! Lunch is on me today! Anything under $15 can go on your company credit card.” It would make my coworker feel less left out.

    2. Anonymity*

      I agree that people she works with may be unhappy to lose their WFH status and maybe this is something OP should ponder.

  18. MK*

    I am going to voice an apparently unpopular opinion and say that the OP’s campaign to recreate the in-office experience for remote employees is not that reasonable. And a snippy part of me wants to know if the company will try to recreate the remote experience for in-office employees by letting them come to work in pajamas and paying for their commute.

    That is not to say that remote employees shouldn’t be acknowledged and valued or that all these suggestions are unreasonable in themselves (sending them the gifts and the swag for example should have been done always). But asking for a whole laundry list of accommodations, some of them requiring not the company, but your coworkers to do extra work, like trying to socialize online while at a party, is a bit tonedeaf in my opinion.

    OP, it’s absolutely not unreasonable to ask for some effort to include you. But, frankly, your original way of thinking was more on the mark: there are pros and cons to being remote and you did choose this. I suspect that living in lockdown has somewhat blinded you to the benefits of being remote, since it was suddenly compulsory for everyone.

    1. Kits*

      I agree it’s not reasonable. I understand what they are saying but quite frankly when they are finished for the day they hang up and they are done. The rest of us still have to drive home. And I get dressed every day, or will when I go back to work, and I sit in my office, and I do my work. I can’t play with my animal while I am there. I make the choice so the company tries to make my work day more pleasant. Remote workers are home, they can make their home as pleasant as they want.

    2. D3*

      That’s….not what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to create a situation where she feels more included and less isolated.
      Which is not at all unreasonable.

      1. Allonge*

        I both agree and not. Wanting to feel included is very reasonable. If the company manages to do that for work-work stuff and… fails to pay for a bagel or whatever when it’s a birthday breakfast, then I think they are still doing quite well.

        I would heavily prioritise. Meetings, sure. Mailing gifts – depends on the gift to be honest, there is good corporate swag and crappy t-shirts. Happy hour vouchers? This may well be a slippery slope when in-office employees also want a gift card instead of the happy hour, so not sure how that will play out. I can see the ‘I have to go to this happy hour and my remote coworker gets paid extra not to be there’, and, yes.

        And as said above, for virtual parties and such, please wait 2-3 months so people can get over the ‘not another Zoom meeting’ sensation.

      2. Heather*

        I agree with MK and think some of it is a bit unreasonable, exactly as they explained. OPs colleagues can’t really be expected to do Zoom happy hours when they’re all back in the office. The swag and functioning AV, absolutely – but the other stuff is too much. Of course we would all sometimes feel more included and less isolated if everybody jumped through our specific hoops, but that doesn’t mean everything we want is reasonable.

      3. MK*

        It is not unreasonable to want to feel more included, but to some extent she did choose the isolation; remote work is by definition mostly alone work. And while it probably wasn’t intentional, this list reads as if she is trying to make sure she isn’t missing anything by being remote.

        1. Elbe*

          Agreed. I sympathize with her desire to feel less isolated – it’s so relatable! – but some of her asks do feel like she wants to hold her company (and coworkers) responsible for ameliorating the downsides of a choice she made… while still allowing her to keep the upsides.

          And, for what it’s worth, I think that she’s overestimating how “included” these things will make her feel. Being on a zoom with all of your coworkers is vastly different from being on a zoom while your coworkers party. Realistically, how much more “included” will you feel by opening a gift on the same day, as opposed to a day or two later? It seems a bit like wishful thinking.

          The company should supply technology to allow her access to company meetings and work functions. They should make thoughtful gestures to show her that she’s valued. Outside of that, though, navigating a lack of work socializing is part of what remote work entails. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.

          1. Allonge*

            Yes, for the gift thing – I am really wondering what kinds of gifts they are giving at LW’s company. Maybe they just really like surprises?

      4. Anonymity*

        Some of it is unrealistic and unreasonable IMO. She accepted the WFH position. And what that entails.

    3. Elbe*

      This was pretty close to my first reaction, too.

      I get the sense that the LW has a pretty good handle on the situation when they think about it rationally, but maybe they’re taking it a little too personally. It’s gone from “in-person and remote employees have different perks” to “if I were more of a priority, people would Zoom with me during parties.”

      The more unreasonable asks seem to center around socialization. I don’t blame the LW for not wanting to lose the socialization they’ve grown used to, and I get the impulse to want to keep something (like Zoom chats) that have been working well for you. But I think that the LW would be better off seeking out socialization from coworkers that she likes and wants to have a virtual happy hour with, as opposed to expecting the company to mandate it.

      1. Lizzo*

        +1 to OP actively seeing out other coworkers to socialize with. I’ve been on both ends of this (only one remote, and then suddenly everyone is remote), and when I’ve done the legwork of seeking out colleagues to have social chats with, even if it’s just over lunch, it’s been helpful in making me feel more included and connected. It’s been way more productive than trying to be a remote participant for an in person event.

    4. Anny*

      Somewhat agreed. It’s absolutely reasonable for OP to want to be included as much as possible and some of the requests are pretty reasonable (especially regarding the set-up for meetings), but I wonder if some of these things might read as additional “perks” to the employees who must be in-person. I’m thinking about some of the letters that have come in over the last year or so about creating as much fairness as possible for employees who were required to be in-person. There are some “perks” that full-time remote people get that in-person folks don’t, not having to spend the time and money on commuting being one big example.

      Sending snacks seems like a bit of an excessive request, but maybe there is some middle ground for things like gifts. For example, mailing gifts could be the default for everyone, regardless of whether or not they are in-person or remote.

      1. H2*

        Totally agree here. How many comments have there been in the past few months that say that working in person is so awful and there so much stress and people are horrified at the suggestion? As someone who has had to work in person since august, I think some of that is over the top but there’s no question that working in person carries a LOT more stress than usual. I mean…if the trade off for dealing with Maskless Matt and Covid Cathy is that I get the occasional bagel, I’m not coming out ahead. And I would struggle with a situation where a peer asked for bagels to make things fair (because the situation is so very much not equal). If that peer asked to have parties over zoom so that she could participate, I would definitely find that to be a burden.

        Now, for sure, asking for proper inclusion in meetings is just part of the job! Gifts could be mailed on, although I would be sensitive to the fact that it’s a person who has to make those special arrangements and I wouldn’t ask for things early. I understand where the OP is coming from. And maybe down the line when working in person isn’t so fraught with stress, the answer might change. I would just say that people working in person for the foreseeable future are having an experience that is a lot more stressful than yours (I mean, as a rule).

    5. Jennifer*

      100% agree. Massive perks go along with working from home, and this was a choice made by the OP. The only reasonable requests imo are consistent AV setup for inclusion in meetings and mailing gift cards since that wouldn’t cause significant effort or expense. Maybe they can get together with other remote workers, or catch up with work friends one on one over zoom or slack. If they had no choice, like if they had to work remotely due to an illness or disability, I might be a bit more sympathetic.

      I’d much rather be home in my PJs and order the food I want on door dash, in addition to not having to deal with traffic or paying for public transit. I don’t think they should send me a pizza because everyone at work is eating pizza that day.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t about what the OP did or didn’t choose; from a manager’s perspective, I want my remote staff to feel included and like part of my team. I want them to feel as connected as possible — that is good for my team and good for my organization. And given how easy it is for remote staff to feel disconnected, anything that counters that is in the org’s best interests. This is about smart management and what’s good for the organization, not about bean counting.

      1. Hell in a Handbasket*

        I would agree for things that aren’t going to cost the other members of the team anything, like mailing out gifts. But for things like moving socializing online, or having to have an awkward Zoom dial-in for parties, I don’t think it’s fair for the on-site workers to have to sacrifice because of a choice that OP make (and gets many benefits from).

      2. nodramalama*

        I don’t know, i think encouraging everyone else to go BACK to virtual social events when they finally have the chance to socialise in person again is probably prioritising the wishes of the remote worker over the rest of the team and organisation.

    7. CherryJam*

      My immediate thoughts too really. Being remote isn’t the same as being in an office, and there are pros and cons of both. We have a strong wfh culture, and if people weren’t in the office, they missed out but we’d always have good quality AV and slideshare for meetings – this is such an easy to way to be inclusive, so I can see how, if it’s not being done already, how it can feel.

      On the other stuff… at my company it’s really unusual to get free food/drinks and never free gifts. Our socialising was often the pub post work with whoever wanted to go or at our monthly meetings I’d buy about £40 of bits (for 20+ people) which I’m fairly sure comes straight from my team head’s pocket. No way would OP’s expectations fly in my company, though this could be a UK/US difference. As someone who organises the social things too and finds it to be a largely thankless task, I’d be taking a step back if I was asked to do all of OP’s expectations as I’d be spending far more time on social stuff than actual work.

    8. nodramalama*

      I agree especially regarding the socialisation aspect. Most of my coworkers were waiting and wishing for a return to going to bars and hanging out in person, and would not willingly go back to virtual events. I think being seperate socially from your coworkers is kind of part and parcel of accepting a remote work position.

  19. EAismySuperpower*

    The comments about how much more work this is are interesting because it sounds like the commentors may be at single building/location companies. My company has 11 locations in Northern CA so ordering lunch for everyone, for example, is already a bunch of work, so adding a few DoorDash orders for WFH/remote people isn’t a big deal. But I can definitely see how adding this when you are used to a one location, in-person office might seem a little daunting. I know how much it is valued by the employees though, so IMO it’s totally worth it.

    1. twocents*

      I work for an extremely large company with offices both in the States and abroad, and from a team lunch perspective, by and large, teams are still reporting in one location at one office. If your manager is in Salt Lake City, then almost certainly, so are you and everyone who shares your manager. So I wouldn’t take this as a big vs small company issue.

  20. Skeeder Jones*

    This doesn’t address the whole question but one suggestion I have for dealing with the FOMO that works for me:
    When I have made a decision to do something that I know will bring up uncomfortable emotions (such as deciding not to date right now but also still feeling lonely sometimes), I talk myself through those emotions when they happen. I’ll have a little convo with myself similar to: “I’m feeling lonely because I’m not dating and that’s ok. I am choosing not to for reasons xyz and I know these emotions will be part of that decision. It is ok for me to feel this way.”

    I don’t know why but having that conversation with myself makes it easier to deal with the emotions. It helps me move through them faster and also to recognize that there is a greater purpose in the decision I have made that I would expect to provide benefits that are more important than the momentary emotion.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      +1! Very helpful advice; can be applied to both work and non-work situations. Thank you.

  21. meyer lemon*

    I’m in a pretty similar position (except that my office hasn’t gone back to in-person yet). I do understand the feeling of being left out, but I find it helpful to reflect on the many benefits of working from home, which I’ve always liked. Or if you really don’t think those benefits outweigh the sense of disconnect, maybe it’s a sign that remote work isn’t really your thing.

    In the meantime, it sounds like you have a great opportunity to let your coworkers know that you’ve really appreciated the chances to connect with them online, and that it would be nice to keep some of them up. I don’t think it would be too much to ask to structure some of the office events so they’re more inclusive to remote employees, but I think it’s just part of the nature of social events that they won’t all work for you.

  22. Blisskrieg*

    Just wanted to say it’s refreshing to see someone who really enjoys the work parties, etc. So often the letters seem to look for less social participation at work. I agree with the OP–I think they’re fun!

  23. T*

    My former employer would bring in snacks and lunches on some days for on site employees during our busiest season. For those of us who worked from home they sent us a care package full of snacks and a gift card for food.
    I also found a site for virtual group cards for birthdays etc. I used but I am sure so many have popped up over the past year.

  24. chewingle*

    Yeah, pre-pandemic, it was easy to accept that “working from home is your perk, you don’t get more if you choose to do that.”

    And then people realized that working from home is still working and, for a lot of people, that they hated it. Which seems to mean WFH is a perk if you like it and working from an office is a perk if you’re *choosing* to do that (this does not apply to people who are forced to work at the office and would prefer not to). So I don’t find it unreasonable at all to make these suggestions.

    1. H2*

      Eh…I mean, I think that most people will not have a choice, and if you have colleagues who don’t have a choice, than the choice is the perk.

      But even if everyone has a choice, then it’s just…a choice. And you take the pros with the cons. Pro: no commute, no stinky microwave, no parking, etc. Con: get left out of parties, no bagels. Being in the office is the opposite.

      But again, as someone who has to work in person right now, I definitely would resent some of these requests.

  25. OwlEditor*

    Before the pandemic, my department had small celebrations like Christmas online. Those in office got to go bowling and have pizza, but they would have a party for the remote people around the same time. I always thought it was nice.
    One thing we did as a team was to start “water coolers” where we meet twice a week (totally optional if come) and play trivia games or just chat for 30 minutes on Teams. The team members who were already remote loved it and we will continue it when we get back in office as we felt closer as a team. So I think your ideas are great, OP.

  26. Jennifer*

    I also think it’s good for the OP to remember that after she is vaccinated she will be able to go out and do things locally. I don’t know what her social situation is like in her new city but maybe it would be a good time to go to some meet ups and try to make some new friends. When her personal social life is thriving, she may feel less isolated.

  27. Mami21*

    Eh… at my company we are structured for both office and wfh staff. Both receive above-average perks, plus the office staff get more of the physical stuff, snacks and happy hours, and the wfh staff getting all the perks we know comes with wfh. The wfh staff have enjoyed getting the office staff perks while we’ve been remote but I don’t think it would be particularly well received if they asked to keep receiving the office perks in addition to the wfh perks, if that makes sense. It would come across as double dipping and being insensitive to the fact that some of us have jobs that have to be done onsite and therefore have to deal with traffic, paying for parking, dealing with in-office politics, etc.

  28. Anon Admin*

    As one of the admins that plans those kinds of things, I would love this feedback.
    !! I, personally, would feel awful if I knew my at home coworkers felt that way. I’ve tried to include the ones still working from home, but it’s hard to know exactly how to do that. Your list is great and I will be jotting it down and putting what I can to use. For some perspective, I work in a smallish setting – around 100 employees – and I do know everyone, some better than others. So I think that may depend on your environment, and how those admins would handle it. Given that you don’t know that, that could be a tough call.

  29. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’d advise avoiding a bean counter mentality though. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for some remote accommodations and remote equivalents for perks, but don’t take it too far. For example, every time the office gets bagels, don’t expect that you’re going to get a breakfast delivery or $5 gift card.

  30. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    If her team used Slack or Teams or some other virtual collaboration during lock down (other than dreaded email) I hope they do continue to use it. It doesn’t totally replace in-person coffee talk or after work drinks, but it certainly can make remote employees feel more included if everyone makes an effort to chat informally during the work day.

    Meetings should always be accessible to everyone, including the ability to ask questions, so that’s not unreasonable. I have a feeling that virtual meetings are going to stick around even if most people end up participating onsite from their cube or office — it’s good for screen sharing, frees up conference rooms for use as more office space, and allows for more participants if they aren’t constrained by how many chairs fit in the room, etc. For many places, scheduling conference rooms was already a problem and this solves it.

    Virtual parties just don’t work as far as I’m concerned…only one person talking at a time while everyone else just sits and listens, or uses chat to ask questions, just isn’t a party. For some events, like an award speech, it’s great that guests don’t need to travel and can still participate in a way, but it’s not the same.

    gifts and swag — well, I can understand if the office doesn’t want to spend extra to ship optional items. If remote workers come in a few times a year, they can pick up the branded coffee mug in person. This could just mean scheduling gift events and office visits to coincide better. That shouldn’t be too much to ask unless this is an unusually gifty office.

    I hope that the office provides remote workers with work supplies the same as if they were in the office — paper, pens, ink/toner, computer equipment, a stipend for a proper chair and desk…

  31. Anonymity*

    I’d say aside from asking that the gifts be mailed, let it go. Forcing social activity on line when people already are back in the office won’t be authentic. You have many perks being able to work from home. Others may wish they had this option. Sometimes we have to give up one thing to get another.

  32. Workerbee*

    For what it’s worth, I agree with your list.

    My jobs have included companies that have traveling staff, that are global, that regularly interact with clients and customers; sometimes one of these things, sometimes all of the above.

    In previous companies, we had that consistent A+ tier AV setup, or at least aspired to it. But we also had the kind of company culture that viewed internal staff as customers as well. We made sure staff had the equipment they needed, that they were included in meetings no matter where they were, that any gifts got mailed out, and so forth.

    In my current org, we regularly interact with clients across the nation. In the traveling days, some of them did come in to the office, or we went to them. But we also have a whole video conferencing center (overhead mic, projector, screens, etc.) because we’re on so many big calls all the time. It was a known thing that time zones and schedules meant that online was frequently the best option. I say all this to show that the video call culture was nothing new, pre-COVID.

    When COVID first hit, everybody got sent home–for a few months. The online world was more alive than ever! And when people were dragged back in, we still kept it to online-only for “outsiders”, as it were. We’ve been managing quite well with Zoom, Teams, changing our in-person trainings and workshops to virtual, and shipping out swag/gifts.

    Except it’s been an uneven experience for someone like me, still at home due to a medical exception. I’m in constant contact with them via Teams, and small meetings are fine. There’s always a Zoom or Teams link if there’s a celebration. These things aren’t the problem. But they have an odd blind spot: Whether it’s a celebration or just a larger staff meeting, if they opt to gather in person, they somehow don’t realize that if a bunch of people are 6 feet apart at a collection of conference tables, yet the video link is running off one person’s laptop and using that laptop’s speakers & mic, the person dialing in is only going to hear and see maybe 10% of what’s going on.

    I’ve spoken up beforehand and in the moment. I’ve asked why they can’t use the conference room system since they’re actually in the room where the system is–they keep saying it’ll be taken care of, but then don’t do it. They sure do if there’s an external client on the call, though.

    1. allathian*

      I’m so sorry. It sounds like it’s some sort of passive-aggressive behavior on an admin’s part, or whoever it is who is responsible for setting up the equipment in the conference room. Sounds like they’re resenting the fact that you’re allowed to stay at home and take it out on you by making it more difficult for you to join in.

      Can you talk to your manager, or HR? It sounds like they’re treating you badly because you have a condition that requires you to WFH for now.

  33. April 19th*

    I think it sounds like what you really want is to be in an in person environment. Have you considered looking for jobs in your new location?

  34. LondonLady*

    My firm went 100% remote during UK lockdown and our team started having a weekly bring-your-own-drinks social Zoom, sometimes with a quiz. Since some colleagues have returned to the office (I have not as my job was already remote) we’ve kept this as a monthly get together, which works well. We all join by Zoom – a group in the office, individuals from home – and it works well.

  35. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    This is so late but I wanted to add this if you want gifts don’t complain about them when they come out. Especially in the beginning, feed back is good but complaints make it harder to get to send out more. The first time around they are pulling money from other places to send these and lots of complaints make it hard to substantiate sending more and spending more money. Please don’t post on Facebook/Instagram how awful the gift was.

    My side job did this during the pandemic and we got so many complaints it was unreal. First gift was a box consisting of sanitizers, masks, pens, sticky notes, healthy snacks, headphones and we had so many complaints to the CEO and HR got many (more than 10) requests for grievances against the company for sending something that they were allergic to to their home. Second gift was Door Dash/Uber Eats gift cards and we received even more complaints about trying to infect people with covid by having someone else cook their food, or that their gift card didn’t have anywhere they would eat at. The CEO was at a loss he spent a great deal of money out of his account, and consulted with a team pulled from different departments to help pick and coordinate gifts. Ensuring that there were enough snacks/masks/earphones for the employee and family to have and to include enough money on the gift card for the entire family to have lunch.

  36. JC C.*

    One standard I’ve held when working with split location teams is that if the meeting is via dial-in or videoconference for some, it has to be via dial-in and VC for all. It can be two conference rooms, but the meeting doesn’t happen if the VC doesn’t work. If it’s a smaller meeting or the remote folks aren’t able to be in a room, everyone individually dials in from their desks, even if 10 of us are together in the office. That way, the discussion proceeds with everyone having the same challenges and benefits, instead of folks on the phone/VC having to try to parse side conversations and chatter in the room. If everyone dialing in isn’t feasible or presents other challenges (maybe desk environments are noisy in-office), the in-room folks have to conduct as if they were dialed in…no side convos, asking if folks have questions rather than just looking around the room, etc.

    As may be apparent, this is a philosophy I formed before VC was common and when it was phone conference only for people at different locations, but I find the same approach works in the VC world.

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