I hate working from home

A reader writes:

I hate working from home. I live and work in a big city and I live in a small one-bedroom apartment. My office has always had a work-from-home policy, but during the pandemic we’ve been working at home 100%. Many of my coworkers have embraced it, in some cases leaving the city for their country homes or other cities. But for me, working from home has been extremely isolating. Our jobs don’t lend themselves to a lot of group work so now I can go days without talking to any coworkers. When we have Zoom calls, everyone keeps their cameras off. I usually turn my camera on just to see if that will motivate people to turn their cameras on, but it’s rare that anyone else does.

Pre-pandemic we were problem solvers and there’s an important aspect of our work that happens when someone walks into your office and spontaneously asks if you can talk through a problem with them That’s completely evaporated since we’ve been working from home. Some people take hours to respond to emails or phone calls, and management doesn’t have any interest in making it faster. All the work is getting done so they don’t care. I’m a very social person and I really miss the camaraderie of the office and the ability to walk around and bounce ideas off of other people. I have expressed concern to my manager about not having enough contact with my coworkers, and she’s tried to help by calling me once a week to check in.

Even now, there’s no urgency to go back to work and it’s really concerning me. I suspect my office will have a really flexible work-from-home policy and I may be one of a handful of people who end up going into the office regularly. I suspect that when I do go in, I’ll be one of two people in the office. I didn’t sign up to work from home or in an empty office by myself. It feels selfish, but work has changed completely and I’m not okay with the transition to so much remote work. Everyone else loves it and I hate it. It’s incredibly lonely and isolating and it has sapped my motivation to work.

How do I communicate this without sounding like the person who wants to ruin everyone’s work-from-home fun? Or am I just stuck and have to accept it and maybe find a new job?

Yeah, it sounds like this is the job now and — like with any other big culture change at work — you have to decide if you can live with it reasonably happily or not.

You’re not alone, though! For some reason, the national narrative about working from home has largely been that everyone loves it, but lots of people feel like you do and can’t stand it. While some of us love working in sweatpants with no one else around and are thrilled by the lack of commute and fewer interruptions, others are lonely or have trouble focusing at home, or feel less efficient or disconnected from colleagues. Or they hate the operational changes that came with the shift to remote work, like having to schedule a call every time they have a quick question for someone, or being on endless Zooms, or no longer getting the sort of “mentoring by osmosis” that can come from overhearing colleagues’ conversations and watching how other people do things. And some people live in spaces that simply aren’t conducive to working from home — they’re stuck working at the dining-room table with housemates’ distracting activity around them or crammed into a tiny bedroom without any room for a real desk. There are lots of legitimate reasons for preferring not to work from home!

But people who love it also have legitimate reasons for loving it. For many people, it’s a dramatic quality-of-life boost — they have more time with their families because they’re not commuting, they’re eating better and saving money on food because their own kitchens are right down the hall, they’re happier not dressing up or wearing shoes, and they can focus better and are more productive without colleagues popping in all the time. I’ve heard from people who are happier working from home than they’ve ever been in their work lives previously and who can’t imagine going back.

Neither of these viewpoints is right or wrong. They’re both legitimate.

The problem in your case sounds like you’ve found yourself at a company where the vast majority of people feel differently than you do. Giving you what you need to be happy would mean taking away something that’s making everyone else happy. That’s very unlikely to happen, at least not without a compelling business need for it. And while you might argue that there is a compelling business need, like being able to do the spontaneous collaborating you mentioned, or being able to reach people more easily when you need them, it sounds like your company’s management doesn’t see it that way. Since all the work is getting done, that’s not an unreasonable stance for them to take! (If the work was done better when more people were in the office — faster, cheaper, higher quality, or with better outcomes — there would be a stronger case for in-person work, but it sounds like they’re happy with how things currently stand.)

Now, if you can point to real problems with the current model — things with a concrete impact on the work itself — you can certainly raise those with your boss. For example, if your colleagues aren’t as accessible now that they’re working at home and that’s causing problems for your workflow, you can raise that. Your manager might need to set better expectations around how quickly your team is expected to respond to messages or otherwise adjust how things work now.

But if it’s mostly about missing the camaraderie of the office and the ability to have spontaneous conversations … that’s probably not going to change if everyone else is happy. (Some of your co-workers would probably tell you that what you see as spontaneous conversations, they see as disruptions to their focus. Others would agree it’s a loss but think it’s trumped by the benefits of getting to work remotely.) That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with what you want, just that it depends on other people wanting it too, and it sounds like they don’t.

Of course, wait to make sure that’s really the case! Right now, it sounds like you’re guessing that almost no one but you will end up going back. But if that does turn out to be correct and your company culture has indeed changed, at that point you’d need to decide if you want to stay in the company as it is rather than as it used to be. I’m sorry for that; I know it’s not what you wanted to hear! But the good news, at least for you, is that there are plenty of companies that are bringing people back to the office, and your preference for being on-site would be a plus to a lot of them. It’s worth looking around at some of those other options and weighing them against your current situation so that you don’t feel as stuck in a situation that isn’t working well for you anymore.

Originally published at. New York Magazine.

{ 526 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please, no comments assuming that no one could possibly have any legitimate reasons for finding it easier to do their jobs when their colleagues are in the office. Also, do not be rude or unkind toward people who have different preferences than you do. People are different and allowed to have different preferences about how they work best.

  2. anonymouse*

    Alison, you need to create a Job Swap Meet for employees.
    People can go to trade WFH for in office, or monthly travel for no travel. Phone culture for Slack culture. Happy hour people for out the door and home people.
    You just trade ID badges and show up the next day. All the retirement, medical plans, vacation time just switches over. Easy peasy.

    1. Debe*

      I love that. I can’t read Alison’s reply because of the paywall but I just want to say I thought I was the only person who felt this way. Isolated is the key word for me. But hey, everyone is different.

      1. Solitary squirrel*

        Nope, me too. It turns out I stay on task much better if I feel other people are around me, also working. I haven’t been able to replicate this either WFH or in an almost empty building (my current circumstance).

        I have a new boss who lives a long way away, so I assume will be mostly remote, too. I guess I will make it work!

      2. Cj*

        I *hate* working from home. Fortunately, quite a few of us have been back in the office since last July (although clients were locked out and had to use a drop box). Most of the people that continued to work from home after that did so because of child care/virtual school.

        We were just notified that with supervisor approval people that want to can WFH up to 50% of the time. I’m hoping not very many people want to because it’s way easier to just pop into somebody’s office than try to call or message them.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I have a much easier time finding someone on Slack than waiting around for hours for my boss to get out of meetings, though. I had SUCH a hard time finding managers IRL in the beforetimes.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        I feel that way too, and I’m an introvert. Toastmasters has helped with some of the isolation, but we’re still in Zoom. We are going back to the office in Sept and it probably will be some sort of hybrid environment. I would be ok with that.

      4. lilsheba*

        It would be nice if everyone could do what they wanted. I’m the opposite. When I was in an office in a previous job (new one is 100 percent remote from the start) the constant noise, so many people being around, the lights, the constant rah rah atmosphere of the place, all of that just did me in. It was sensory overload every day. Oh and don’t forget the lovely open floor plan. I was in a call center and the effort to hear people on the phone above the din gave me a headache. The pandemic finally gave me a chance to have the environment that an autistic introvert like me needs. So it would be nice if the extroverts took over the office and introverts were left out of it.

      5. MCMonkeybean*

        Most of the people on my team are desperate to get back into the office. Long-term we are switching to some kind of home/office hybrid model and I met with my boss to pitch me being classified as remote permanently and she was like “oh, I thought this was about you wanting to be full time in the office” because apparently that’s what everyone else on my team has been asking about.

        I don’t get it, but to each their own! Our two most recent hires were hired as full-time remote employees so all the online communication we’ve implemented during the pandemic I’m pretty sure will be a permanent feature regardless of who is working from where…

    2. Retired Prof*

      On a related note… once, trapped in Thanksgiving traffic, my husband and I came up with the Thanksgiving exchange. Instead of driving for hours in nightmare traffic to have a fight with your sister and be horrified at your racist uncle, you swap families with someone else. You drive to their family in your town to eat dinner with people on their best behavior because there are strangers at the table. Win-win.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Oh, all the years of holidays I lost when I could have spent them with someone else’s family!

    3. Michelle Smith*

      Oh my goodness yes. If I could stay in my little run-down studio indefinitely, I would jump at the chance to avoid my 3 hr round trip commute. I do feel sorry for OP though. There are few things worse than signing up for one type of work environment and having it change dramatically to something that no longer aligns with your values. I’m going through something similar right now, that is completely unrelated to WFH, and it’s miserable.

  3. Curiouser and Curiouser*

    Man do I relate to this OP…I get it, I’m trying not to be a downer, but I work in a job where people are salaried without a ton of regular deliverables, and working from home is allowing a lot of people to become MIA and never contribute without much backlash while others are doing the lions share of the work because it needs to get done.

    I think there are jobs that are made for WFH and there are jobs that aren’t…and while I appreciate that everyone wants to WFH now, some jobs just aren’t made for it.

    1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      I will say, it looks like we will be transitioning back to the office, and while I imagine there will be a bit of grumbling, my issues will likely be solved by this time next year lol.

    2. Jen*

      With you here! I go to the office every other week, it’s the best of both worlds for me right now, personally and professionally. I have a really hard time getting people on the phone or following up on items that are time sensitive because some groups who have been strictly at home for a year and a half now seem incredibly checked out and hard to reach.

      I sympathize with the OP though. I live alone and though I had friends/family nearby and do speak with my coworkers more often than OP, the pandemic was quite isolating so I’m sure it’s incredibly tough.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        Yeah your first paragraph is what I’ve been noticing too, and I think it IS because my job (live media) is much more about last minute/spontaneous issues than predictable deliverables, so when people are checked out or hard to reach, it very much affects my ability to do my job.

        Also…I too live alone, and pretty far from my family, so I sympathize with that piece as well. I don’t need work to be my social atom, I don’t need us all to be friends, but even my introverted self misses seeing people.

    3. Roja*

      re: your last paragraph, I think it’s equally true that some people are made for WFH and some aren’t. And I think very few people are made for WFH when they live in a tiny space, especially when they share that space with other people. Trying to teach from home was a disaster last year for me; my poor husband was always tiptoeing around the house and my cats kept wandering on and off of camera. There was never enough room to do what I needed to do.

      We just need all the companies who have switched to WFH to snatch up all the “I want to WFH” employees, and all the companies who want to go back/have gone back to the office can snatch up people like OP! Win win.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        That’s definitely definitely true! I also think there are a lot of people who think they are great at working from home because it is so much more convenient for the rest of their lives…but they actually aren’t great at it, lol. We tend to think we’re good at things we want to do whether or not we are.

        1. Jen*

          Yes! That’s exactly it. There are people who just aren’t great at it. My coworker has no dedicated work space and 4 kids. While she was not the greatest, most focused employee previously, people are really noticing it now….but she thinks she’s doing great and loves it!

          1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

            I would bet your coworker also hasn’t had regular child care because of the pandemic (which is so, so completely understandable, no hints at judgement here! Parenting in the pandemic seems nearly impossible!). But I wonder how many of those people will still love working from home when the old WFH expectations…like regular childcare…are put back in place.

            1. anonarama*

              i love wfh even more now that my kid is back in daycare. wfh while parenting at the same time is the unhappiest i’ve been in my entire life.

              1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

                That makes total sense too – definitely didn’t mean to imply it was easy, it seemed like categorically terrible.

            2. Jen*

              Her previous childcare was her nightshift partner taking care of the younger two (not yet school age) during the day while also trying to nap, so I know it’s all fallen on her now that she’s home during the day. I do sympathize….but it’s been a year and a half of grace and exceptions etc. Not having people at full productivity for this long is just such an issue. Parenting during the pandemic has definitely been tough but I was more pointing to her lack of dedicated work space and distractions than her childcare issues :)

            3. SpaceySteph*

              I’ve had my kids back in daycare since last July. I love working from home 100x more when they’re not here. I get to work, I also get to take a short break to exercise or vacuum or start the crockpot for dinner. I don’t think I’d like wfh at all if having my kids home was part of the bargain (although when they’re school age it would save me a boatload of money on aftercare if i could be home when school let out).

              1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

                This makes total sense to me, my original comment definitely came across like a weird know it all-y thing! I would like it less with kids here for sure!

        2. Robin Ellacott*

          Yes!! We will need to stop WFH once the plague is fully tamed, because of the confidential info we handle and the fact that the vast majority of the work truly can’t be done remotely. I had a team member ask to stay remote because it’s “working so well” and honestly, she is making really poor policy decisions (as in, not to policy at all) and also someone here is doing 30% of her work to allow her to be remote. So it’s working great for her, I guess, but not for the work or for her colleague who is dealing with a bunch of extra tasks.

        3. Pot O Gold*

          “a lot of people who think they are great at working from home because it is so much more convenient for the rest of their lives…but they actually aren’t great at it”

          Yeeesssss. I work for this person. lol

      2. Mialana*

        “And I think very few people are made for WFH when they live in a tiny space, especially when they share that space with other people.”

        It can be the same if you live on your own. I don’t really need that much daily social interaction and I’m usually too tired after work to meet up with someone so I mainly meet with friends and family on weekends. But not meeting anyone for five days in a row is just so sad! Eating lunch with a coworker or having a water cooler conversation might not seem like a lot of socialising but you really notice if you don’t do those things at all anymore…

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          I had to start scheduling a midweek catch up with friends when I moved into my own place because otherwise I could quite easily go the whole five days without seeing anyone. I’m pretty good at entertaining myself and like my own company, but I do still need a little bit of social interaction or I’d just go stir crazy.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        Sure, but some jobs it’s much easier to fly under the radar and do the bare minimum without it being noticed than others.

          1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

            Sure, but a lot of these are different groups are departments where I don’t even know the management let alone have any control or insight into how they are run. I can criticize their management til the cows come home, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do my job/get answers I need.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              The point is that the system where people can get by with doing little to nothing or foisting their work off on others is a management problem and not caused by the fact that people are working from home. This sort of thing is bandied about as a reason people can’t WFH when it’s not the WFH that’s creating the actual problem – it’s lax management, undefined/unmeasured performance criteria, and a system that lets people dump their work on others without consequence.

              In short, I’d rather not someone take away my WFH because other people suck and are poorly managed. I fully empathize with picking up work that’s technically not mine because it needs to get done – story of my life – but the people who are crappy managers that let their people dump work on me and my team are also crappy in the office, and at least, right now, I don’t have to commute while I pick up their slack. (And I get bonused for above-and-beyond work.)

              1. allathian*

                Yup, this. Luckily I don’t have to pick up anyone else’s slack nor do they pick up mine, because there isn’t any, but denying good workers the ability to WFH because it’s a bit more complicated to supervise than butts-in-seats management, is simply poor management.

        1. lilsheba*

          no not really. We had a co worker who barely did a quarter of the work and it was noticed trust me! They eventually got fired for poor performance.

    4. Colette*

      Some jobs will never work for WFH, but that’s because the people in them need to interact with people or things that are tied to one location (e.g. shipping and receiving; gas station clerk; ER doctor, specific functions in IT). A lot of other jobs could work remotely if everyone was on board (most things that are done primarly on computers). In some of those cases (like the OP’s case), the job can be done remotely but it will be done differently than in person (e.g. no drop-in conversations). In your case, management isn’t up to managing people working from home, which is different than the work being unsuitable.

      There are other cases where the person and their living situation don’t work for WFH. Right now, I like working from home; when I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, I would have been much less happy about it.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        Yeah, I do think our management is white knuckling it to get back in the office, lol, but I do think that while the work could potentially be suitable to working from home (I’m not so convinced that it is just because the collaboration and communication isn’t as productive), it would require a major overhaul and there are definitely companies who don’t have the time or inclination to do that.

      2. sofar*

        Yes, I have one of those jobs that everyone loooooves doing from home. Except for me. We are VERY collaborative, and deadlines/priorities fluctuate constantly, so we need to check in a LOT. This wasn’t bad in-office, when we could huddle. Now, the number of slack notifications I get gives me literal panic attacks. And it’s so hard to tell if the people you are talking with are actually there …

        1. silent minority?*

          My job is similar, but without so much collaboration / fluctuation. It’s very isolating at home alone all day. It’s also irritating when people compare – “parents have it the worst,” “teens have it the worst.” If you lost your job / home / someone close to you, I’m veeeerrrrry sympathetic. Otherwise, it’s hard for many people, and comparing doesn’t help.

          1. Random User Name*

            Yes! I’ve always been pretty happy spending time alone but a whole year of work from home/isolate at home alone was too much isolation for me. I also just…don’t like working at home. It feels more like I live at my office.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Not speaking for the person you asked the question to but for my own experience, I find it really hard to present things when I cannot see everyone’s faces. I imagine “not there” in more of a “not mentally there” context.

            We don’t force people to put their cameras on, and besides when you have slides up you can’t see all the faces anyway. It’s much more difficult to present at a meeting when you can’t scan the room and see who is listening, who is nodding in agreement, who looks confused, who is scrolling through their phone. That visual feedback is really helpful as a presenter.

            I generally like wfh but that aspect is much harder.

          2. sofar*

            I meant on Slack (which my company uses as its primary mode of communication). After you Slack them a message, you never know if they’ve seen the message, are ignoring the message or are walking the dog. If they don’t reply in a few hours, you don’t know if they’ve forgotten about your message or are ignoring you.

            In an office, it’s pretty easy to see, “Oh Jane’s chair is empty, I’ll flag her when she gets in.”

            1. WellRed*

              What drives me nuts is the people who constantly announce that they are stepping AFK or rebooting. No one cares! And then, when you are looking for them, radio silence. I’d love to Strike AFK and BRB from the slack lexicon.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That is a damn good point. My job was already semi-WFH-like, because we have been a distributed team and no single team was ever in the same office at the same time. We still had to call/IM/what have you. I built some fantastic working relationships with people before ever seeing them in person. (Our boss once flew our half of the team out to the state that the second half was in, for a week of “getting together and learning what everyone looks like in person” time. It was great!) I get it that many jobs are not like that.

    6. pancakes*

      That’s not a good situation and would be a downer for a lot of people, including me, but another facet of WFH is that if the slackers are being disciplined or managed out, you’re not likely to have visibility into that unless and until they’re gone one day. It could be that this has been noticed and they’re on PIPs or something. It wouldn’t be good management to talk about their shortcomings in a team meeting.

    7. Kelly L.*

      Yes. I deal with people who, as far as I can tell, are checking their email about once a month, and I have no idea how they’re getting away with it.

    8. The Shadow Broker*

      That’s the thing, though; I’m not sure that everyone wants to WFH now. I mean, that seems to be the dominant narrative in the news media right now – but then again, most journalists work in roles that could probably be 100% remote and ones in which they could use the dedicated focus time. I remember being startled when I read that The Atlantic’s staff were expected to work from the office all the time before the pandemic.

      I mean, obviously N of one, but I work with a bunch of introverted nerds (we’re in tech) and most of us are itching to get back to the office at least a few days a week. The designers, particularly, are dying. They want their whiteboards back.

  4. TWW*

    I hate working from home too, for many of the same reasons.

    But also, it’s normal for jobs to change over the years. Every job I’ve ever had eventually morphed into something “I didn’t sign up for.” That’s what motivated me to move on to a new and better job.

    To answer OP’s question “maybe find a new job?”: Yes, that seems like a really good solution.

    1. Smithy*

      I totally agree with this – but also think that it’s perhaps worth it for the OP to wait until the fall?

      My overall sector has largely adjusted to WFH and taken COVID very seriously, but with a key caveat that there is a list of key activities we want to get back to. Depending on the specific team that list could be longer or shorter. but the real wrinkle is when the return will happen. I know one team planning an international trip for August while my team won’t even be considering returning to the US HQ office until October.

      When my team will ultimately return to the office, group meetings and travel – maybe it’ll be October – maybe November. Maybe at that point we’ll get another major pushback on WFH until the spring. Either way. there will be a lot more information available in the fall around who is actually back in the office vs more extensive continued remote work. And in an interview you’d hear a lot more around how we’ve adjusted for collaborative work – how active is slack? How common is Zoom with video?

      1. No Ragrets*

        Yeah, I would give it some time and see what happens once the office is an option again. People might opt for part-time in-person schedules, and OP can decide if that feels satisfying or not. But, it may end up being that their best bet is to look for a job that is 100% in-person.

        If management is happy with how things are going now, trying to push back on a permanent WFH policy is going to create a ton of bad blood between OP and their coworkers. Speaking as a WFH person who loves it and sees it as a huge job perk, I would be extremely ticked off if a coworker tried to make me come back to the office for their own personal preferences.

        1. silent minority?*

          Why is it objectively better if your coworker accommodates your personal preferences? Employees look out for their own best interests. Management may decide to go permanent WFH or return to the office, but don’t blame your coworker for doing what’s best for them.

          1. No Ragrets*

            I was speaking to LW’s situation, where the company seems to be ok with a large percentage of the employees staying remote permanently. The LW agitating against that policy because it doesn’t work for them would probably anger the majority of their coworkers, who do want to be remote. Doing what’s best for you is great; trying to get company policy changed to suit your personal preferences, when that will make working life worse for your coworkers, is not.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I agree on waiting. I think, just like many companies have rolled back from saying “WFH forever post-pandemic!” some offices will change as well as we adjust to back to the office. Right now I think we just have to ride the wave. Just like when we first went home, there will be another learning curve/adjustment when we come back.

        Once the entire world is back to normal will it require more in-person collaboration? Or are we still ok with the work being done as less? If a department that is 100% in house has to work with a department that is 50% WFH, how well do meetings go – it’s different when EVERYONE is on zoom rather than split.

        I think about this a lot. Right now 90% of our workforce is home, I am 3 days office, 2 days home and right now it’s perfect for (small 1br, live alone)…but once we ramp up and everyone’s in I am not sure if it will still be perfect or if I’ll miss out on some facetime in meetings.

    2. TiffIf*

      My company just announced Phase 3 of our Return to Office which is everyone returning to the office. The official policy for most workers is a 3/2 Office/WFH split. I am fine with that!

      I live in an apartment and the only place I could work from has been my bedroom–which is driving me up the wall. I also miss the in office interaction. And the in office air conditioning (I’m in the western US which is seeing record breaking heat and drought).

      I don’t mind working from my bedroom even twice a week but ALL THE TIME is so isolating and monotonous.

      1. Liz*

        Your situation sounds very much like mine! only my office is my dining room table. Visible from my living room when I’m done for the day, and no way to separate it so its its own private workspace. We are also transitioning back to the around the middle of next month, with the plan to be, and I quote upper management “back to normal” essential right after Labor Day.

        While no exact word yet from the powers that be what the transition may be, my own bosses have said maybe 1-2 days a week, until Labor Day. I’m hoping to be able to WFH 2 days a week and go in 3. I believe company policy was, with manager approval, 2 WFH days a week. I miss interaction with my co-workers too, and need a change. It gets pretty darn boring being in your home 24/7 all the time! And I need more structure. I struggle many days to stay focused and actually do more than what absolutely has to be done.

      2. Fricketyfrack*

        Ha, the office air conditioning is actually one of the big reasons I hate being back in the office (though my split is 3/2 WFH/office, fortunately). I’m always cold, like it’s 90 outside right now and I’m in pants, a hoodie, and slippers, and I have a heating pad on my back. It’s incredible how much time and brain power I save not adjusting my work blanket and heating pad, or making tea, or going outside to thaw out. I never realized how much better work would be if I wasn’t constantly frozen.

      3. lilsheba*

        I have ac in my home luckily, and offices were always too hot for me! They never set them cool enough.

    3. Anononon*

      Yeah, during the pandemic, my company shut down two of the satellite offices permanently. At least, for one of them, the main office is literally only like 20 minutes away, so there are likely in-person options still. But the other office is across the state. And my friend’s work closed her office permanently as well, so she’s fully remote on-out.

    4. OhNo*

      Same, this past year has made me realize that I am fundamentally unsuited for working from home on a regular basis.

      And, unfortunately, I think finding a new job that is a better culture fit might be the way to go. You could certainly give it a while to see if things snap back into place once people feel more comfortable (you never know, you might not be the only one who hated the WFH time!), but if this turns out to be a fundamental change to how your office runs, there’s not going to be much you can do to change that.

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

      Yes, I think we’re in a mass migration in the work force right now; so many retail and food service workers have decided not to return to their old jobs, a lot of office workers have decided not to go back to the office because they feel better at home, some forced-home workers want to get back to an office and get work out of their homes. It’ll eventually settle into a “new normal,” right?

      1. lilsheba*

        Retail and food service workers are burnt out, underpaid and tired of being abused, it’s no wonder they’re leaving!

    6. meyer lemon*

      I think there’s also a difference between choosing to take a work from home job and having a work from home job thrust upon you. I was particularly fortunate to already be working from home before the pandemic started, so I had already done the work of configuring my apartment and workday as needed. It’s been a lot harder for my colleagues who had to figure this stuff out as they went, even though our jobs are similar.

    7. anon e mouse*

      I might have left my job before too much longer anyway for a variety of reasons, but announcing a truly terrible new telework policy (in the opposite direction of LW, and actually worse than what we had before COVID, with weak to non-existent business justification and a terrible attitude toward widespread staff pushback) as part of the return to the office in the coming months has made me decided to walk ASAP. Fortunately I got an offer yesterday that seems pretty good.

    8. Caro*

      I’d love a quick glimpse into the future to find out what the new normal looks like – then we could all make our career decisions from there.

      I am currently a manager or managers at a mega corp, and whilst my whole team has pulled together and made it work this last year to keep things going, it has been about twice as hard, for half the results. I would not apply for my own job right now. I have just applied for a senior individual contributor role at a start-up, despite not having been on the tools, so to speak, for years. It’s not something I saw myself doing before this, but if WFH is the new normal then I at least want to find a role and company where doing that is playing on an easier mode than I am currentley.

  5. Hills to Die on*

    Man you would love working at my company! We are all required to be in the office, it moves fast, you meet a ton of people, and you are constantly problem-solving. Those companies are out there!

  6. Anonymous Hippo*

    So, my VPN is blocking the site, so I’ll have to read Alison’s reply later, but my $0.02.

    Have you talked to your co-workers/manager about the issues you feel are being dropped, to see if you can come up with a solution that doesn’t involved everyone back in the office. If there are problems not being solved, or things taking longer than they should, or some legitimate business issue that needs to be addressed, I’d say go ahead and discuss with your colleagues. But if this is a personality issue, I think the best thing all around would be to start looking for a different job. You really don’t want to be the person who made everyone else have to work in the office, it certainly won’t be good for camaraderie.

    I’m one the phone and in meetings with my team multiple times a day, to the point I literally have several hours a day I just refuse to answer the phone (first hour, last hour, lunch) so I can get some quiet time. Obviously, other teams have different levels of contact, but if the rest of your team isn’t feeling it necessary to be in contact very much, I do wonder how much of this is job related and how much is just personality. Do you have an IM system? Maybe something like that, with a more in-time conversational flow, yet where the other person isn’t put on the spot if they have something going on, could be beneficial.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      This is a great point. My work has been 100% remote, but we have Microsoft Teams, which allows people to have impromptu meetings and calls or chats. I’ve found it perfectly mimics the “hey got a sec” walk up collaborations (without someone actually walking up to me and interrupting me, which in my opinion makes it way better). Back in the start of the wfh edict we didn’t have Teams, we had some old basic system, which made contacting people and collaborating a lot harder. Once we had the new system in place collaboration and communication increased. Perhaps the OP’s company just isn’t set up with a good system and they could propose an upgrade to address all of the problems they outlined.

      1. allathian*

        We’re going to switch from Skype to Teams in the fall, and I’m looking forward to the more collaborative aspects of Teams. Synchronous collaboration isn’t really necessary in my day to day job, but it’s essential when you’re brainstorming or solving problems. Asynchronous collaboration’s really easy with shared files. I really do like the Skype chat function, and Skype calls have pretty much eliminated phone calls for me. These will still be available on Teams. I do like the traffic lights on Skype as well. I absolutely loathe unscheduled work phone calls and I’m really glad they’ve been pretty much eliminated in my job, and I much prefer a heads up in chat asking if I’m available, even if I’m flagging green. It gives me enough time to reorient myself to another part of my job. When this happens, it’s much easier for me to get back to what I was doing before the call than if it’s unscheduled.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I think the “issues getting dropped” have more to do with the company and less to do with WFH. It sounds like people are being held accountable, and that happens in the office too.

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      I think you have some good points here. Also, you mention trying to turn on your camera to encourage others to do so. Maybe just flat out as for cameras on for a couple? Especially if you have a team check-in type of meeting regularly, just ask! “Hey everyone, I really kind of miss seeing everyone’s face! Would you all be open to having our bi-monthly check in with our cameras on so we can get a little face time in with each other?” It could very well be that if you give your team the chance to be ready for an on-camera meeting they’ll be open to it.

      You may also be surprised when the office actually re-opens how many people are around, even if it isn’t quite as many as before. While many people do really like working from home, the once they do have the option of accessing the equipment and supplies at the office again many folks may start opting to come in at least one or two days a week. I know for me, while I do vastly prefer WFH, there are a few things that are easier to do at my bigger desk with double monitors in the office, so I’ll be back in the office at least one or two days a week when it reopens for that reason if nothing else.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Just no. I attended an all day Zoom training today. Since my hairdresser was out of town last week, my regular appointment got pushed back. Had a really, really bad hair day today, need a hat bad. So I would have noped right out of being asked being asked to turn on my camera. Plus, my office configuration is such that my laptop is not where I could use the camera anyway.

      2. JM60*

        Maybe just flat out as for cameras on for a couple?

        I very much disagree with asking people to turn their cameras on. I may even consider it a bit rude unless it’s a special occasion or good work-related reason for the cameras being on. For me, if I wanted my camera to be on, I probably would’ve turned it on. In the OP’s case, the fact that others aren’t turning their cameras on when the OP does is a sign that they don’t want to for whatever reason. They may be more comfortable with cameras off. They may enjoy the benefit of not having to worry about their appearance with the camera off. Whatever the reason, I don’t think satisfying your need for human connection (which can now be met outside of work if you’re fully vaxxed) is a good enough reason to pressure co-workers to turn their cameras on.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I hate watching myself watching others do a presentation, just so the presenter “can see some faces.” Uck! I only turn the camera on if I actually have to say things.

        2. allathian*

          Yes. I guess I’m happy to work in a sufficiently informal environment that the clothes I wear anyway are okay to show on camera. My hair is a mess because I haven’t had a haircut since February 2020, but I keep it in a bun or ponytail. It’s fine enough for being on camera but a bit messy for the office. I’m going to have to get a haircut and some hair clips before I go back. I do intend to keep my hair longer than it’s ever been since I was in elementary school and Covid gave me the opportunity to grow out my bangs and I’m not getting those cut again.

          I do think that having cameras on when nobody is presenting, and only the presenter having the camera on when presenting, has worked for us. When we’re looking at shared files, you can only see whoever is talking at the time. We also mute ourselves when we’re not talking, and I’m really grateful we do that. Seems to me that our presenters are perfectly happy to be talking to the void without seeing any faces. We do have the chat function on, and our presenters are good about pausing every few slides to check if there are any comments. I’m introverted but chatty and work in a comms-adjacent job, so everyone on my team is fairly happy about speaking out in meetings. But I also work with a couple virtual teams with more introverted people, and I’ve noticed that the really quiet ones are happier about speaking up in meetings when they can type rather than talk.

    4. Koalafied*

      Yes, LW, if your company doesn’t have an IM/chat system, and you have any ability to sway the decision-makers, I’d strongly encourage you to lobby for one. I won’t say it’s exactly the same as being in person, but it gets back a significant amount of the informality and spontaneity you’re missing.

      There are pitfalls, and some companies implement it better and get more out of it than others. My company has easily over a hundred “channels” (like chat rooms) on Slack. My department has a channel which is primarily intermittent social chatter mingled with a lot of “heads up – I’ll be out/in late/leaving early on X day” missives. Every functional group/team that I’m a part of has their own team channel to discuss stuff that’s relevant to the group, which is where “tricky problem I could use some help with” discussions tend to happen. Big collaborative projects usually spawn a project-focused channel. Every major piece of software we use has a user group channel for people to ask for help and share tips/cool discoveries or promulgate new business rules.

      We also have a few channels that are just bots notifying us when something happened that some piece of software picked up a signal from – a particular webpage went offline, a VIP filled out a contact form, someone made a very large purchase, etc. If one of those alerts requires a quick tête-a-tête with a few others before you can proceed, you can reply to the bot’s post and tag the relevant people so they can see what you’re looking at.

      And then there dozens and dozens of purely social channels – one where we share photos of our pets, one for photos of our gardens, one to talk about personal finances, one to talk about video games, one to talk about fitness, one for mental wellness, one to talk about new technological breakthroughs, one for Star Wars, etc…anyone who wants to can start a new channel, some are extremely low-traffic and others have chatter in them all or most of the day every day.

      We’re a very large international company with offices around the world, and the number of teams spread across multiple offices and remote locations had been rising steadily for 10 years pre-pandemic, so for most of us, in-person collaboration with the full team simply isn’t an option. But having an informal place for quick messages keeps everyone on each other’s radar – plus, it’s great to be able to drop in on only the social channels relevant to your interests and bypass the ones that don’t interest you. And when you have a really busy day, just as you might have closed your door in the office to signal you shouldn’t be interrupted, some people will take a Slack-free day, which really helps manage the inherently disruptive nature of IMs by not expecting people to be available at a moment’s notice on chat all day every day. We also have an integration with our office calendar system so that whenever I’m in a meeting that’s on my calendar, a little calendar icon next to my name lets people who message me know that I’m in a meeting so may not be immediately responsive.

      1. Koalafied*

        Oh, and by far my favorite feature of Slack – when you use the video call function and someone shares their screen, everyone else on the call can draw on top of the presenter’s content and everyone else, including the presenter, can see it. It’s insanely helpful for avoiding the dreaded, “Now click that icon that looks kind of like a TV in the left… Upper left… Very top. Yes, that one!” forehead-against-desk frustrating exchanges that arise when you’re forced to describe what something looks like without being able to point or gesture.

  7. generic_username*

    In my office, we have a culture of still doing the spontaneous chats while at home. If I have a quick question, I chat my coworkers on Teams with “Got a sec?” or “I have a quick question – are you available?” and then we do a cameras-on Teams call. For the people who I’m not as close with, I’ll chat my question and we’ll do a call if they can’t answer it in writing easily, but they still tend to answer almost immediately during business hours. For the people who I used to drop in their office and chit-chat, I still kind of do that – once a week (unscheduled, but fairly regularly), we generally do a cameras-on chat about how our weekends were or our plans for the following days, or something of that nature. Usually those chats follow a legitimate question, like they would in the office, but other times we schedule it as a coffee break (to simulate the coffee run we would have made in the office). We’ve even on-boarded a new team member during this time and she’s included in the people I chat with regularly.

    I really love working from home and want to continue it at near 100%, but I’m not sure I would if I didn’t have these capabilities. I also have a dedicated office-space, which helps too. All that is to say – I feel for the letter writer. WFH can be so isolating (especially if you’re a single person living alone, which you don’t say explicitly but I feel like from context you are).

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Same here. We’re all remote anyway, and I’m the new team member– and I love the “got a sec” chat culture here. I would have preferred a hybrid office/wfh arrangement but I wanted this job, and I’m glad this is our culture. For what it’s worth, if I don’t want to be bothered, I just don’t answer.

      That said… LW, you might want to start looking around. I completely feel for you. I cannot even imagine long-term wfh from my old (and beloved) NYC apartment. But this sounds like a shift in company culture that won’t work for you.

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      I actually feel a lot closer to a huge chunk of people in my company thanks to WFH and Microsoft Teams.

      In the office, I might’ve been expected to “pop into” someone’s office to ask them a quick question. But (1) that looks super rude without at least a little small talk [and so takes up way more time], (2) people frequently weren’t actually in their offices because they were popping into other people’s offices, and (3) there was a CLEAR hierarchy of who it was OK to approach with a random question and who wasn’t, and some of the people were on the C-Suite floor, which can be intimidating.

      With WFH and Teams, we’re all equal in terms of communication methods. It’s easier to get the information I need from the specific person who has that info. It’s faster. And I’ve had some great one-off conversations that I wouldn’t have had in the office (both in IM and via Teams video or phone calls).

      And my actual team members and I aren’t limited to who is sitting near us. I can talk to the person whose cube is on the other side of the floor as easily as I can talk to the person whose cube is next to mine.

      But my company is rather stodgy, so we’ll be going back to the office at the end of August. Thankfully, our department both pushed hard for continuing WFH indefinitely *and* busted our butts this entire time so that our productivity only fell slightly when we first transitioned to WFH. Our Sr VP couldn’t make the argument that we need to be in the office to get our work done. The best he’ll give us, though, is 3-2; three days in the office and two days at home.

      I am going to hate going back for those three days a week. I’m already having mini panic attacks over it. This past year+ has been the healthiest I’ve been my entire adult life. Fully rested, no colds, no flu, no flare-up of chronic health problems from lack of sleep and having to be “on” 9-10 hours a day, five days a week. (The mental load of needing to be prepared to engage with anyone who could/would “pop into” my cube for quick question was much more draining than I thought. Being at the office is like being on stage, in a live, impromptu performance).

        1. Solitary squirrel*

          Depends on culture I guess… we have Teams, but it’s barely used except for scheduled meetings. I don’t know why. There was a little flurry of messaging when it was new, then it faded out.

      1. lilsheba*

        “I am going to hate going back for those three days a week. I’m already having mini panic attacks over it. This past year+ has been the healthiest I’ve been my entire adult life. Fully rested, no colds, no flu, no flare-up of chronic health problems from lack of sleep and having to be “on” 9-10 hours a day, five days a week. (The mental load of needing to be prepared to engage with anyone who could/would “pop into” my cube for quick question was much more draining than I thought. Being at the office is like being on stage, in a live, impromptu performance).” THIS!!!! My mental health has been so much better, and yeah I haven’t had a cold in over a year and a half. The thought of getting lunch together/commuting anywhere now just makes me want to cry. I will take wfh for the rest of my life, no problem.

    3. Lacey*

      Same. I chat a fair amount over slack, because that’s my preferred method of communication even in the office, but some people prefer the phone or zoom and it’s not a big deal for someone to ask me to call them when I get the chance.

      My job was always sort of remote though. We did all work in the office before covid, but we didn’t all work in the same office. So we already dealt with that person who never gets back to you or the one who can’t explain anything clearly in an email. The only thing that changed when we started working from home was that I couldn’t get sucked into a two hour conversation on the latest Netflix shows.

    4. Quinalla*

      I definitely do miss the turn and chat with my neighbor conversations (after looking to see if they look really busy) – one of the few things I miss – but yes I agree that teams “Got a sec?” and then having a video chat is an almost-as-good replacement. It does sound like the OP coworkers are not really into that – but if OP hasn’t tried to initiate those when they need to bounce ideas – do it. I’ve also started scheduling more meetings to have these conversations with a few people and also set up some group teams chats as well when the conversation doesn’t have to happen simultaneously. That actually has led to some interesting chats that can span hours/days that aren’t urgent and we get a ton more participation because of it.

      But yeah OP, there are definitely people at my company that really miss working in the office and were the first ones back for at least part of the week if not all when our office opened back up voluntarily a few months ago – with masking and safety measures! Some because their home office situation sucks, some because they miss being in the office, etc. We are all trying to be mindful of each other preferences and plan to take some time to figure out how we are going to do this going forward as we are going to have lots of hybrid people and a handful of WFH FT people – might come in once a quarter if that – so getting our heads wrapped around how to best do meetings so everyone can be included.

    5. Random User Name*

      We’ve been doing this too – jumping into Zoom meetings for a quick chat. But I’ve heard from some of my early-career reports that they feel nervous/uncomfortable doing that with senior people. They don’t want to feel like they’re bothering anyone, so their issues don’t get addressed as fast. It’s something they could work on, sure, but I do feel it’s better for their development to be in the office. (And to have at least some of the senior people back too.)

  8. Jen*

    For the love of everything though, if your org has been “cameras off” for over a year now, don’t try to encourage cameras on during a meeting without letting people know ahead of time. I’m NOT camera ready 99% of the time and people at my org CANNOT STAND spontaneous “cameras on”.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Camera on is so much more pressure than an actual in-person meeting. You’ve got to stare awkwardly at your camera, making sure your facial expressions are matching whatever is being discussed. You have to be camera-ready and your background has to be immaculate as well. I get a once-a-month camera-on team meeting, but would not be able to handle more than that.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, camera on means I need to either clean my living room or relocate my work setup.

      2. Jen*

        All so true! I’ve recently been added to a team that LOVES camera on (from one of our other facilities) and I absolutely HATE our meetings, but at least I know they are coming. I have a ton of meetings unfortunately and if they were all camera on, I’d just come to the office because it’s horrific!!

      3. Solitary squirrel*

        I keep hearing this, but I much prefer camera-on to in person. Maybe because I can see myself so I can gauge whether I’m being appropriate? (I’m autistic, if that’s relevant.)

        1. allathian*

          Possibly. I, on the other hand, hate, hate, hate seeing myself on camera. I keep it on because I like seeing others and want to do them the same favor. But when I’ve checked that the picture looks OK, I blank out my own picture with a post-it note because I don’t want to look at myself. I can school my expression to the extent that’s necessary without it.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I had someone ask to go cameras on just to get a face to go with the name, and I did it before realizing that you could see my storage shed clean-out project in the hallway behind me. Oops.

      5. allathian*

        This really, really depends on the organizational culture. In my org, there’s no expectation of people staring at the camera in meetings when the camera is on. Our dress code was pretty casual in the office and that hasn’t changed WFH either. People who want to do so can wear makeup, but I haven’t heard of anyone being judged for not doing so. I don’t wear makeup every day to the office and I’ve heard no comments about that. We’re certainly too polite to point out if someone looks tired, etc.

        Our backgrounds aren’t immaculate either, although I’m not quite sure what that means, exactly.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          One example, when we first started WFH, my home office doubled as a guest room and I had a bed clearly visible behind me. We were on camera a lot over the first month or two, and I noticed that I was the only one with a bed in the BG! everyone else had professional backgrounds with shelves of books behind them and so on. (Then again, that’s when the blurred BG comes in handy)

    2. HS Teacher*

      I despise camera on requirements. My boss gets irritated if we leave them off because she just wants to see us. The problem is that, in person I am conscious of the things I do because I know others can see me. When I’m in front of my computer, I often forget I’m on camera. I don’t like the camera-on requirement, and I turn mine off whenever it isn’t required.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Camera on isn’t more “social” than camera off, either. That wouldn’t solve your loneliness problem.

        I would recommend separating in your mind the problems related to WFH (fewer spontaneous interactions, etc) versus those more related to pandemic isolation in general (if you’re don’t have a big friend group outside work or are don’t know how to start chatting more with coworkers over IM, etc).
        Some of the issues you bring up are legitimately related to WFH, but some don’t seem to be- “hours later” is an extremely normal amount of time for an email reply unless it’s time sensitive.

        (Apologies is this duplicates Alison’s response; I haven’t read it yet.)

        1. Kingsley*

          I don’t nessicarily agree with this. I’m a PM and when I was studying for the PMP there was a lot of discussion about non-verbal communication style and you defiantly get a lot more context with a camera on.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            Agree. As I lead calls, cameras tell me a lot about how things are being received, if I need to change my tone or tack, and if folks seem engaged. I don’t use it as a “gotcha” but to help myself be better as I talk.

          2. allathian*

            There’s a point that’s been made about high-context vs. low-context cultures. High-context cultures require a lot more non-verbal communication to communicate things that can’t necessarily be said out loud, whereas in low-context cultures, you get away with voice or even text a lot more. There are individual differences, just as with every other cultural characteristic. High-context cultures include much of Asia, Latin-America and southern Europe, low-context cultures include the Nordics, Germany, and at least according to one study, the US. Others are somewhere in the middle.

            So how much context you need depends on the culture you’ve grown up in and your individual preferences, although it can also be situational to some extent.

            I’m in Finland and pretty near the extreme low-context end of the spectrum, but even I can see that having your camera on can be useful at times. But maybe the low-context communication I’m used to means that I’m not overly worried about the impression I might be making on camera, I trust that people listen to what I have to say without worrying too much about my appearance or facial expressions.

    3. Willow*

      Several months into the pandemic and working from home, I finally could go see my massage therapist–and she told me that I had to stop turning the camera on when it wasn’t needed because having to be on camera so much, not being able to fidget, staring straight ahead, was making my back much worse. I still turn on the camera for small meetings, but at big ones where I’m not required to talk, it has to be camera off.

    4. Spotted Kitty*

      I hate cameras on because of the way my computers are set up. I have my laptop and a second monitor. I take notes on the second monitor, but the camera is on my laptop. So I have to constantly look back and forth, back and forth, and one of my managers just the other day told me it looks like I’m not paying attention. Sorry, I’m crammed into my bedroom and literally have just enough space for the monitor and laptop. There’s no other way to configure stuff. If you want my set up to be nicer, you’re gonna have to give me a raise so I can move into an apartment with a dedicated office space.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yup. I’m with you and Willow- having the camera (in my laptop) on means that my setup has to be arranged in a way that is either uncomfortable or that I can’t see my other screens. I just don’t have that much desk space!

        It makes it much harder to have those “impromptu” meetings with camera on.

      2. A Feast of Fools*

        We got told in February-ish that, for every meeting that wasn’t a 1:1 with a fellow team member, we had to have our cameras on. I have my laptop and two monitors set up in my home office. I’m usually looking at one of the two big monitors, not my tiny laptop screen, so the camera angle from my laptop is up my nose.

        The minute I got the email about “cameras on”, I ordered — through our company’s IT support site — an external camera to mount on top of the monitor directly in front of me. I still think video meetings should die a fiery death but at least my camera is at eye-level now, and I can push myself far enough back from it that my face doesn’t take up the whole screen.

      3. A Feast of Fools*

        Oh, and Spotted Kitty, I used to work for a company in an office that was remote from Corporate. Once a week, we had a whole-department meeting with our Sr VP. She, and about half the team, was at Corporate, and so would meet in a conference room. Us and another location attended via Zoom from our own respective conference rooms.

        The Sr VP called me out one time for “not paying attention” because I was furiously typing on my laptop.

        Notes. I was typing notes because a lot of important information was disseminated in those meetings.

        Come to find out, she thinks people are paying rapt attention if they are WRITING notes but not TYPING them. [eye roll]

        That was one of the many red flags that had me jumping ship just days after my first year there, so I started sticking crossword puzzles in my notebook and worked on those during her Very Important Meetings That Must Be Captured in Pencil or Ink.

        Like, if you want to check if someone is paying attention, ask them a question about the content instead of policing their body positioning or note-taking method.

    5. Lacey*

      100%. I have one or two meetings I know will always be cameras on. I am presentable for those meetings. At any other time, I am almost certainly not. And even if I am, my house isn’t.

    6. Quinalla*

      Yeah, it really depends on your culture. Our company is very much cameras on if you can, but not required and the bigger the meeting, the more people have cameras off. And this is internal meetings only – for external meetings, nearly everyone has cameras off. That has worked well cause I am not dressed up at all anymore and no one internal cares one bit – I actually think management made the decision to intentionally dress down to make everyone comfortable while WFH – but external clients I don’t always know what they will think and I’m not always comfortable showing off my basement at home so camera off.

      But yeah, I’d approach people individually and see if they would be willing to do cameras for 1 on 1 or smaller meetings. I find camera for that really helpful.

    7. Faith the twilight slayer*

      Our org has a few on screen meetings and I simply freeze at the thought of it. I’m not a fan of pictures either. My bosses have mostly let me slide with being a disembodied voice, but the two times I was required to be visible I had obvious issues with being able to control my phobia to the point where I found it difficult to form complete sentences ☹️

      1. allathian*

        I’m sorry, that has to be tough. Could you get an accommodation to stay off-camera for good? Is therapy an option for you? Does your employer have an EAP?

        I don’t like being on camera much either, and I’ve found it really helps me to feel more comfortable with it when I just cover my own picture with a post-it note on my screen so I can’t see it. We use Skype, and the user’s own picture is always on the same spot on the screen, so that helps. For some people, especially if they have a very asymmetrical face, it helps if they can get their own picture to show a mirror image instead of the picture others are seeing. Then it’s more like looking in the mirror.

    8. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, I do think you could ask if everyone would be open to a cameras on team meeting or something like that, but asking for it in the moment probably won’t work. I know, even if I don’t look horrid, my work set up causes a lot of back light, so just switching on the camera without warning isn’t very useful since I just look like a whistleblower on 60 minutes who doesn’t want their identity known. If I know in advance, though, I’m happy to adjust my seat and monitor to make it work.

    9. Meep*

      I am bad. I have tape over my camera. If people want me to turn it on, it looks like my camera is broken. Do I feel bad about it? Not in the slightest. I don’t want to stare at my own nose hairs and I will. Leave me alone.

    10. Lyudie*

      Oh gosh yes. Several months ago we had an 8 am meeting with a new executive (it was so early to accommodate various time zones) and the executive asked that people turn on their cameras (I will say she said “if you are comfortable with it”) and to say I was not camera-ready is a large understatement.

  9. Heidi*

    One element that the LW might consider is that the pandemic prevented people from socializing outside of work also, which made the isolation worse. As the world starts to open up, work may not be the only avenue for her to see people and she might find working alone more tolerable.

    1. idwtpaun*

      I think this is an element that gets overlooked a lot. I love working from home, but even I have felt cabin fever, couped up in my apartment day after day. However, I have a hobby that under normal circumstances entails a lot of social interaction and even travel. I can’t wait to see what it will be like to be fully WfH when large group gatherings and travel are back.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      The pandemic has been SO ISOLATING for so many people, myself included. I also feel deeply for the folx who were cooped up with their families and roommates with no time to themselves. Unfortunately my best friend was the latter who didn’t really understand quite how awful it was for me.

      I’m someone who pushed hard for a weekly WFH day in my office, but I need a mix of both being left alone to get my shit done AND in-person interaction. It doesn’t help that a ton of my coworkers are really techphobic and if I chat with them in my typical IM style they legit can’t follow what I’m trying to communicate. I have to craft my whole response at once, like an email. Imagine if all of your work moved exclusively to email…

    3. Meep*

      My manager couldn’t cope with the pandemic to the point she felt the need to isolate and control ME. Being told I wasn’t allowed to talk to my own mother on the phone on my off-hours because I had to “focus on work” was weird.

      I ignored her for the most part, of course, and had a bubble, but there were hours where she would yell at me for daring to contact coworkers with a question. I have literal PTSD (as in I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me) from it. I imagine I am not alone by a long shot.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Your mother? On the phone? Off the clock? Unless you were using company equipment to call her, your manager has nothing to do with that!
        And many companies decided that their employee mental health was worth enough that they encouraged use of the corporate Zoom account to chat with family & friends during lockdown!

    4. Le Sigh*

      Yeah, I think this is a bigger factor than perhaps realized. There are absolutely many people who don’t do well with WFH, pandemic or not, for a lot of reasons. But even as an introvert who loves WFH, the inability to really leave the house safely, see my friends/family, interact with the coffee shop guy, or hell, even say hi to my Chinese food delivery guy really got to me by winter. Now that I can do things more safely, I feel a thousand times better even though we’re still WFH.

      1. allathian*

        Same. I haven’t been out much yet, but on Friday I met a few friends I’ve known since college, and in some cases since middle school (my hometown is a college town and I stayed there, as did many of my friends), at an outdoor patio. Lovely weather, great company, good food and a few drinks. It was great, but I admit it felt weird at first to be surrounded by so many unmasked people. I’ve mostly gone out of the house to exercise, and in our area it’s been possible to do that unmasked throughout the pandemic, but mask mandates have been in place indoors and on public transit since last fall when the second wave hit.

        I’m an introvert, and for the first time in years I felt actually energized by being surrounded by lots of strangers while hanging out with my friends. In spite of the heat wave we’re currently having, I find that I have more energy for working than I’ve had in months.

  10. AnonEMoose*

    I do empathize – it’s hard for a lot of people, I think. Personally, I love working from home. Most of the time I have a cat in my lap, I can wear leggings or sweat pants or bike shorts, and I don’t have to wear shoes. I’m also not a fan of those spontaneous conversations, because my work requires more sustained focus, and an ill-timed interruption can set me back half an hour after “just a quick question.”

    Even then, I do miss seeing my coworkers and occasionally bringing in baked goods for everyone (the occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies does wonders for morale!).

  11. Dorothy Zbornak*

    I would hate 100% remote work forever too. I miss the separation of work and home. And I’m certainly not trying to be best friends with everyone at work, but I do find I miss having those quick conversations you can knock out in person when you run into someone in the kitchen instead of having to schedule a meeting or send an email. Most importantly, in the office I sit directly next to my boss, who in the virtual realm is impossible to get hold of. I miss being able to grab her for a quick question instead of having to connect with her assistant every time I need something.

    Our work is moving to a hybrid model and that’s ideal for me. I think I’m going to try around 3 days in the office and 2 days at home each week to knock out stuff with fewer distractions.

    1. Cora*

      Well said! There are benefits to both, but I’m ready to meet a coworker in person and enable those quick convos.

    2. ThatGirl*

      My situation is very similar. We’re easing back into the office and I have found that I miss more of the office culture than I realized. I didn’t have a great dedicated workspace at home, it’s either the couch or the kitchen table. Which is fine sometimes, but being in the office 3-4 days a week and home 1-2 is a much better fit for me. (I will say that it does help that my commute is very short. When I had a long commute I hated all the lost time stuck in the car.)

  12. Tripleloop*

    I feel you, OP – I hated working from home, too. The house is big enough but there are too many distractions there, I didn’t have the the same access at home to work files I might need, and my (retired) husband was there 24/7. I was thrilled to be back at work full-time in January.

  13. KHB*

    I feel exactly the same way, OP. And I’ll pass on some advice I got when I was whining about this exact thing a few weeks ago: You are not going to be able to count on your coworkers to fill your need for human companionship. Certainly not right now, but maybe not ever again. It sucks, but it sounds like that’s the way it is with this company. So work on finding social interactions elsewhere. For me, I dug up an email list of a small choir I was in in the Before Times, and asked if people wanted to get together and sing for fun in a small group outside. A few people took me up on the offer, and it was great – and I feel so much better about not seeing my coworkers face to face.

    If there are work related issues stemming from the work-from-home arrangement (and it sounds like there are), then you can raise those separately, but first, do what you can to rid yourself from the feelings of panic and despair born of your loneliness.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Some people won’t be happy with a job that has little to no social interaction during the workday. That can be true even if they’re getting plenty of out-of-work socializing.

      1. OhMy*

        Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with OP for not wanting to work alone from home 40 hours a week indefinitely. That doesn’t mean OP needs them to fill her need for human companionship, this would be understandable even if you have a great social life outside of work.

      2. no more wfh*

        Agreed. I see a lot of people assuming that OP is unhappy because it seems like their socializing was all through work. That isn’t the only reason people like working in offices. Personally, I just simply work better when I’m around other people and not in my home. Some people might enjoy a couple of minutes of water cooler talk during the workday…that isn’t hardcore socializing. If you work in a large company, maybe you’ve actually made friends with coworkers.

        Sometimes I feel like there is an attitude from commenters that you should never ever view coworkers as friends, but that isn’t the case for many people.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          And OP did say that they are in a tiny apartment. I think that’s an important factor. My kids were out of the house when WFH started, at least to the point where I had one spare bedroom I could convert into an office. When I moved two months ago, I looked for a tw0-bedroom apartment so one bedroom can be an office. Not everyone has that luxury. Even in my fairly comfortable situation, the place does not have central AC and the summer has been interesting. The room that serves as my office has only one window, that is currently occupied by a window AC unit, so even on a cool day, I can’t have fresh air in my office. On a hot and humid day when it rains, my AC sprays water in the general direction of my monitors… That was never an issue when working outside of home! It’s not ideal. And being in the city, I bet OP has all kinds of city and neighbor sounds interfering with their meetings.

          I’ve made work friends, I’ve dated people that I met through work (though only after at least one of us no longer worked there), I get that part as well. I also think that after a year-plus of working from home, we may see our past office life through rose-colored glasses. We may vividly remember the lunches out with our work friends, but not the fish microwaver, the open-mouth chewer, the “never stops talking” in the next cube, the bad-smelling officemate and so on. It really was a mixed bag even in the best of times.

      3. KHB*

        I mean, sure – there are always going to be aspects of any job that some portion of the population won’t be happy with. Sometimes the answer is to leave and get a new job that’s better for you, and sometimes the answer is to suck it up and deal with the bad aspects for the sake of the rest that you mostly like. My point, I think, is that you’ll be in a better position to make a rational decision on that if you’re not feeling so overwhelmed with loneliness and isolation that you’re not in a mentally healthy place. So my advice – which worked for me, but which I can’t guarantee will work for everyone, because not everyone is me – is to try and tackle the loneliness problem first, in whatever way you can, then you’ll be in better shape to face the rest of it.

    2. Judd*

      Absolutely. The issue here isn’t working from home or not working from home, it’s that OP appears totally reliant on work for all social interactions. That’s not a reasonable or realistic thing to expect from a workplace.

      1. AY*

        Totally disagree with you here. There’s nothing in the letter about OP’s social life or life outside work at all (other than living in a small apartment), and I don’t think we should be making these kind of assumptions. OP doesn’t like working alone and that’s a reasonable stance for anyone to take.

        1. Simply the best*

          Yeah, I feel like we need to replace the word socializing with “face to face human interaction.” When you say socializing, there are going to be people who assume you mean not working, wasting time, and gossiping around the water cooler, when what you actually mean is I just want to speak to another human being about this work project and look at their face while I talk to them, not just craft another email.

          Some people don’t enjoy spending 8 hours a day in a room alone. That doesn’t mean they don’t get ample socialization outside of work. It just means during work they prefer human interaction to isolation.

          1. JM60*

            While there is a difference between socializing and “face time” in the course of performing work, I think that how much one socializes outside of work is likely to affect how much they desire “face time” during work hours.

      2. KHB*

        To clarify, when OP says that she feels lonely and isolated and misses the camaraderie of her office, I think that’s both a valid feeling to have and not necessarily a reasonable thing to expect her employer to solve for her right now.

        This past year has disrupted all kinds of interpersonal interactions, not just in the workplace. Families couldn’t gather for the holidays, groups of friends couldn’t get together for nights out, all kinds of activity groups were either shut down altogether or shifted to online. So a lot of us are feeling worn down by that right now. And because we spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, that’s often where the bulk of our socialization comes from. And perhaps importantly, the bulk of the variety in our socialization – I have a hundred and some odd coworkers, but nowhere near that many friends and family.

        So it’s not unreasonable or selfish to miss your coworkers. But it’s also not unreasonable to say that things are not going to go back to the way they were – at least not right away, or not at this employer – and to ask whether whatever need you were fulfilling by socializing with your coworkers can perhaps be fulfilled in some other way.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes to all this. People who might be able to approximate the feeling of working in an office by working in, say, a coffee shop or cafe or whatnot instead of their little apartment haven’t been able to even try that (where I am, at least) until very recently. Not every WFH job is suited to that, either.

      3. Random User Name*

        Nah, I’ve never depended on work for social companionship and now that I’m back at the office I still don’t. But I still hated the isolation of WFH, and I’m much happier now that I’m back in the office, mostly ignoring my coworkers.

    3. Rayray*

      OP isn’t whining and isn’t depending on their coworkers for human interaction.

      People are really being mean to this person.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The commenter you’re responding says she feels the same way the OP does. Her use of “whining” was referring to herself, not the letter.

  14. Richard Hershberger*

    I suspect we will see a bifurcation of jobs into those that target employees who prefer to work in the office and those that target employees who prefer to work from home. There are some industries where spontaneous collaboration is a real thing. Those will favor the office. But in many other industries, “spontaneous collaboration” is merely corporate babble. The interesting question is how they respond as working from home grows ever more mainstream. The huge business argument for having employees work from home is the savings on all that office space. This is an actual line item on a budget, and therefore weighs far more heavily than anything intangible. My guess is that as executives grow more comfortable with the idea of working from home, that line item will come to dominate their thinking. From the workers’ side, the extroverts and introverts will sort themselves out between office industries and work-from-home industries, with much wackiness during the transition.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Oh, and in the specific case of the OP, notwithstanding their former condition of being problem-solvers, the key bit is that the work is getting done. If my predictions run true, this is not going to be an in-office industry.

    2. TWW*

      Speaking of extroverts and introverts, I think we need different words to describe people who prefer working in an office and people who prefer working from home. I propose “inofficerians” and “athometrists”

      I’m an introvert, but I dislike working from home. I don’t like talking on the phone or appearing on web cam. And I don’t like hearing or seeing my coworkers in my home because my home a place for just me and my family.

      On the other hand, going into the office suites my style. I get a little social contact (which even introverts need) without having to make any effort to seek it out (which I’m not good at).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I like it! I always fall in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale on every test I take, and it does seem to reflect reality. But I am a die-hard athomerist. You are right that there is not a direct correlation between the two.

      2. KHB*

        Yes! I feel the same as you, and I confess to being a bit baffled by the assumptions that “introverts all love working from home, and extraverts all love the office.” I’m an extreme introvert, in that I need a lot of alone time to recharge. Most of my job – from wherever I’m working – is spent alone at my computer, not talking to anyone, and I like it that way. My life isn’t set up to seek out a lot of human interaction, so when that little bit of incidental socialization you inevitably get in the office got taken away, I really felt its absence.

        1. Rayray*

          A lot of people think introvert means antisocial and extrovert means outgoing life of the party.

        2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          As a fellow extreme introvert, this is spot on. And as a corollary, being an introvert doesn’t mean you’ll cope well with having no social outlets, or that you don’t value some degree of social interaction simply because you get your fill from incidental socialization. There’s a difference between none and very little, but the only people I’ve felt comfortable discussing this with are…extroverts?

          One of my biggest takeaways from the pandemic is that a lot of introverts seem uncomfortable with acknowledging their own or other introverts’ social needs, however meagre they may be. To the extent that most introverts aren’t recluses, there’s a lot of intellectual dishonesty going on there.

      3. Cordelia*

        yes! I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with introvert and extrovert – I think we assumed that, in the Before Times, but that’s not how its worked out. I am hugely introverted (not shy, not socially anxious, not antisocial, introverted!) and have hated working from home, such that I am changing jobs and going back to an office (well, hospital in my case) job next month. Like you, it was the easy, effort free social contact that I missed. My extrovert best friend however loves working from home and has changed jobs to one that is permanent wfh.
        I think the next year will be the Big Reshuffle, and after that we will all have settled into the type of working that suits us best – there will just be more options, and more acceptance that different things work for different people

      4. Emilia Bedelia*

        Totally agree! I like to say that “work chat” is basically just following a script. Chatting amicably about the weather, pets, weekend activities, sports, etc is easy! Being a generally pleasant person with other generally pleasant people is far less stressful to me than worrying about ambiguous social situations.

      5. gbca*

        YES this is such a great way to describe it, from a fellow introvert who is so. over. WFH.

      6. Anonosaurus*

        Oh so much this. I am an introvert and I definitely don’t want to WFH 100% forever. i have missed my coworkers and the office buzz deeply over a year of WFH to the extent I almost feel embarrassed about it. I have a lot of friends but being alone day after day has done a number on my mental health and I hate that so many people seem to think all the introverts have been loving life and only the poor extroverts are struggling. Some of us are not okay. I’m sure many extroverts are struggling too and it’s not a competition but the stereotype is annoying. Being an introvert does not mean one has no need for people, it means one needs alone time to recharge…

        1. allathian*

          “Being an introvert does not mean one has no need for people, it means one needs alone time to recharge…”
          So much this!
          I do miss the incidental socializing at the office, at least at times, and I’m looking forward to seeing how a hybrid system will work out for us in the future. My employer had a hybrid system even before the pandemic, although I admit I didn’t take much advantage of it because I had no home office and I vastly prefer working on a monitor that’s bigger than the laptop screen, and in the office I have two monitors. But when we were sent home in March 2020, we set up a proper home office for me and I’ve been productive at work. Since March 2020, I’ve only been to the office once to pick up some stuff in August 2020. I spent most of my time there socializing at a distance with those who were there at the time and didn’t get much work done. I find it much easier to focus at home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my coworkers.

      7. Gumby*

        Absolutely. I *hate* talking on the phone and zoom/teams calls are that on steroids. The only people who I happily call are related to me. And those tend to be marathon phone calls of an hour or more. Anyone else? Please text or email or anything other than call. In person is better than a phone call!

        My other not so small WFH annoyance is that our VPN will kick you out if there is the slightest blip in connectivity and apparently my home wifi blips at least once every few hours. Getting back on VPN after being kicked out requires a restart…

        1. Gumby*

          ETA: I actually am ok with a small number of Teams/Zoom calls to handle topics that wouldn’t be dealt with faster in an email. But the number of calls I am on that meet those criteria is… less than 100%.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Agree, but I’ll note that the cost savings in the business are passed on to the employees. It’s much harder to WFH in a studio or one-bedroom, especially if you have more than one person.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I think you meant “aren’t” passed on to employees? Or, the business costs are passed on but those then come out of the employees’ pockets.

        1. interpretation*

          I think the intention was “there’s a cost-shifting from employer to employee.”

          1. JM60*

            That depends on whether the employer has some kind of WFH reimbursement policy. But even in cases when they are passing costs to the employees, the cost savings of not commuting are usually greater. Many people have saved a lot on gas and vehicle wear/tear.

            1. sagc*

              You do realize that there are people who take public transit/walk to work?

              I’m not saving anything, what with my increased electricity costs, and I’d be saving even less if I owned an AC unit and could run it in my 30°C weather.

              1. JM60*

                public transit/walk to work?

                30°C weather

                I take it that you’re not American your use of celsius. The overwhelming majority of Americans commute by car, and I had the typical American in mind when writing my previous comment. Unfortunately, public transportation is poor in the US due to urban sprawl, the auto industry previously fighting against public transportation, and people fearing scary ‘socialism’.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I think that depends on how the company handles the transition to work from home. I have not made a hard calculation but I do think I have saved more money working from home due to the transportation cost savings. I would say the biggest tangible expense is utilities, higher heating/cooling costs. I have not done an actual analysis of the costs, but I didn’t really notice my utilities going up significantly from being home more. The next expense is the wear and tear on my tv/monitors and computer from being on for 8/9 hours a day more than usual. In a permanent WFH job, I would expect the company to provide the equipment, computer/monitors etc. My previous monthly public transit pass cost about $110. Guesstimating I would say my costs due to working from home were $20 to $30 still significantly less than that transportation costs each month. Then there is also the savings in going out to eat less, but I don’t really count that because it has nothing to do with the company, I could just as easily not eat out at all while working in the office.

        If the company made everyone WFH and use their own equipment than yes I agree the cost savings are coming at the expense of employees. But I was provided printer paper and ink, I brought my office chair home.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          What about the real estate? My cubicle was 8×8 with bookshelves and an L-shaped desk, one leg of which was deep enough to unroll an Arch D drawing set on.

          I don’t have a desk at home big enough to have my laptop, docking station and 2 23″ monitors all on it. Plus, I spend so much time on screens for my job, I barely go on line in my non-work hours. My brain can’t handle it. So, I never got a fat pipe for data. But, work expects that I’m going to be uploading and downloading 60 MB + files and be on group calls all day. That costs.

          My ConEd bill went up by 30%.

          I walked 45 minutes each way to and from the office. So, much less exercise, too, and harder to clear my head.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            That is a good point I forgot to account for and that is coming from someone who is working in the living room with two TV trays for a desk. I do actually prefer to work from the office, or maybe a 3/2 office/WFH hybrid, but do not want to work from home permanently.

            Your point about screen time for your job, I assume you didn’t spend as much screen time prior to the pandemic/WFH? For my work, screen time has increase slightly, but most of the work was already in front of a screen to begin with.

            I didn’t account for data because I am with a cable provider that has a fixed monthly price, I do a lot of streaming as my primary tv use and don’t have cable TV so I already had what to me seems like a cheap and fast internet plan $50 a month for 250mbps speed with no data cap. But you are right some people when switching to work from home need to increase their data speed, or hit their data cap sooner.

            For your ConED bill the 30% was total increase or what you would attribute to work? If it is total you also need to account that you might have spent more time at home due to covid in general and not just work, so 20% of the increase was due to WFH and 10% was due to just being home more during non work hours.

            As for clearing your head and the walk, if you are WFH nothing is preventing you from walking for 45 minutes around your home before/after work. I used to have a 60 train commute that I loved I could wake up gradually, read news, watch a tv show on my phone etc and be ready to work when I got into the office. At the beginning of the pandemic I was struggling because I would wake up 10 minutes before work, but eventually I recreated my “commute” at home. I would wake up 60 minutes before work and do my usual news/tv show routine before and after work.

            But overall yes if you walked to work and already had no commute expenses, it is harder to save money by WFH, everyone’s mileage may vary.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              +30% was due entirely to WFH and SchoolFH.

              Actually, at the start of the lockdown, people were told to not go anywhere except under Absolute Necessity or if an Essential Worker.

              I do walk. But, the WFH situation and the stress resulted in many of my colleagues (including clients) working all kinds of weird hours and I was not in a position to easily push back on all of them (some jobs were Essential).

              I haven’t lived in a house with a TV since 1983. So, my home data use was low. I joined a community owned mesh network for $300/year. (We jokingly call it The Squatter Network.) I set up a kind of complex firewall at home to take care of the security problems with that and had a long consult with IT so they didn’t block it long before COVID (and I’m so glad I did!). Between the mesh network AND my personal firewall the bandwidth demands were a p.i.t.a. I had loads of screentime on my job before the pancake, but, most wasn’t video. Too much blue light makes my brain feel like mush.

              Anyhow, the real estate issue was huge. HUGE.

              1. allathian*

                My 32 in 4K Samsung monitor has a blue light filter. If you use Windows, you may be able to set the theme in settings to eliminate blue light as well.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m an extrovert. I love people. But I abhor distraction, being unable to escape my co-worker’s cologne, and driving 40 minutes to ‘collaborate’ with people in other time zones.

  15. Charlotte*

    Ugh I feel you OP! I live in a city and I have multiple roommates so it’s a struggle having everyone WFH: I like these people but I did not sign up to spend LITERALLY all day every day with them. Not to mention the fact that our apartment is old and even if everyone has doors closed we can hear each other on calls all day long. Truly did not know I could find anyone’s laugh so unbearable!

    Summers have had me especially longing for the office and its air conditioning as it’s pretty unbearable here on the hottest days, and I literally developed carpal tunnel from my desk setup. Of course I’m very grateful that I didn’t have to risk catching COVID but we’ve all been vaccinated now so the indefinite WFH situation is frustrating.

    It’s especially painful as I’m a low level admin and I see my higher paid coworkers in their home offices in their nice large a/c’d homes with their spouses–I get why they don’t want to go back but it’s quite miserable for many of us who aren’t so fortunate.

    (Also have serious problems with the way WFH has blurred home/work boundaries–as an hourly employee no one would have ever imagined Slacking me at 11 PM about an urgent issue when we were in the office, but now I feel like I have to be constantly connected without getting paid for it…)

    1. Kassie*

      I hear this, especially the air conditioning part. But for multiple roommates I have a husband and baby. Baby crying while getting her diaper changed 6 feet from me when I’m trying to have a meeting has got me losing my mind. I’m waiting for final, final approval, but it looks like I get to go back into the office in July. I am likely going to be the only person in the whole office most days, but I don’t care. I can’t work here any longer.

      1. Charlotte*

        That sounds deeply unpleasant and I’m glad you have an end in sight!! And all my sympathy to people with babies, roommates may be annoying but at least I’m not responsible for their welfare!

      2. KHB*

        Oof. Good luck, and here’s to hanging in there just a little more. I can confirm that, when the problem is distractions at home, being the only person in the office is pretty good. I have been going back in to an empty office since mid-May, and the difference in how productive and relaxed I feel at the end of the day has been like night and day. Hope it all works out well for you.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      You have my sympathy. It sounds unpleasant. In the long term, if you were sure that your job was going to remain work-from-home permanently, many of the problems could be solved by living somewhere else. The cramped urban housing with multiple roommates is an artifact of the necessity of living within commuting distance of your job. Take away that necessity and the possibilities are suddenly wide open.

      1. Charlotte*

        That’s true for many people but my reasons for living in a city actually have little to do with wanting to be near my job, and I’d say that’s not uncommon. I don’t drive (in my case that’s a choice but for many people with disabilities etc it isn’t) and there’s very few places in the US that lend themselves to a carless, independent lifestyle (ie, not having to bug other people for rides constantly).

        I’m looking for a new job in any event (and would love tips on what to wear to a Zoom interview when it’s 90 degrees in your apartment!) but I chose my workplace, and will continue to choose my workplace, to fit my lifestyle, not the other way around.

        You’re probably right that I would change some things if I knew we’d be permanently WFH but instead the can just keeps getting kicked down the road so it hasn’t been possible to break my lease etc as I’ve been being told “oh soon!” since last August…

        1. generic_username*

          Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to live with the heat in a blazer (but cotton shorts! and a very light-weight tank top under it – if you want the button-up look, then look up dickey collars). I have a cheap $5-10 desk fan that I use when it’s super hot, and that might help as well

        2. The Original K.*

          Yeah, I live in a city because I like city living. (I live alone so the roommate thing isn’t a factor, but there was a point in my life where I lived in a small apartment with two roommates and we’d all have been working in our bedrooms during COVID.) I worked in an exurb at one point and I absolutely loathed it – I would not have considered living there, or near there, for a second, for many many different reasons. I would physically exhale when I got back into city limits after work.

    3. OhMy*

      RE – coworkers at their nice AC’d homes with their spouses – I cannot begin to explain how much I relate to this.

      1. pope suburban*

        Me too. WFH from a one-bedroom apartment without any real office space was terrible. Doing that while my well-paid colleagues were in their home offices, having space to move and breathe and hopefully not feel like they live in their office was hard. Combine that with some serious top-heaviness and culture problems in my particular workplace, and it was a recipe for disaster. Those of us who were the hardest hit were expected to do the most, without any reimbursement/provided equipment, and we’re always (and I mean always; this is a pre-COVD problem here) cut out of the acknowledgements and rewards. I would say I felt disposable. I’m not sure that being back in the office really fixed that, and it came with a whole separate host of challenges and risks, but at least now I feel like there is a line between work and home. It turns out that that line is something I desperately need to feel functional. The hemmed-in, trapped feeling of WFH was bad, and seeing how uneven that experience was just exacerbated things. It’s not a contest, but it is something that was difficult in many different ways for people, and it’s okay to talk about that.

    4. Lorraine*

      I completely feel you – I have the same set-up: City-dweller with multiple roommates. And I would never choose to leave my city – here we have culture, nightlife, good people, good food, good politics, I don’t have to have a car, close amenities.

      I hate that leadership are making office decisions based on their own living set-ups and salaries. My job offer was for an office in this city, and I have an expectation to return to it asap.

    5. Kiki*

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that the higher-ups/ higher earners of the office not fully understanding the challenges of their more junior, lower-paid peers. Working from home with roommates or in tiny apartments is not ideal. A one-time $2oo work-from-home stipend is not enough to start living on your own without roommates or upgrade from a tiny studio to a one-bedroom with enough space for a desk.

      I also didn’t really like the way WFH blurred boundaries and brought home things more into the purview of work. Before working from home, my ac being out would have been annoying but not interfered much with my work. But when you’re working from home during a heat warning and aren’t able to go to coffeeshops due to COVID restrictions… it becomes a whole thing. And before working from home, the office provides an opportunity to get some space from your significant other during rough patches/fights. When working from home, that can bleed into the workday.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        Yeah, we got an e-mail from one of our VPs earlier on about proper zoom etiquette that had suggestions like “make sure you have a designated space with a clean background”, “make sure you’re in a quiet area without background noise”, etc. It seemed incredibly tone deaf and got quite a bit of negative feedback…

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Why didn’t you just go to your country house and enjoy the peace and relaxation there while the maid cleans up any messes and makes you food?


    6. EmmaPoet*

      I started my time in my current city in a boarding house (yes, they still exist!) and am so very very grateful that I didn’t have to WFH there. You had your own room, but there were 40 of us in the house!

  16. Always Thinking*

    OP, you might consider a membership at a co-working space. It would get you out of the house and provide some social interaction. It’s not quite like the before times working on site and won’t solve your team collaboration issues, but there will be actual real life human beings around that you can interact with.

    1. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah maybe OP could even get her company to pay some or all of the cost. I have seen it happen!

    2. pbnj*

      Good idea. Perhaps OP can try working at a coffee shop for a few hours to be around people.

    3. Sleepless*

      I’ve been trying to get my husband to do this. He started working from home a year before Covid. On the one hand he has ADHD and it’s easier for him to focus (plus it saved us a fortune in office rent), but on the other hand he’s an extrovert and it has taken a toll on his mental well-being.

  17. alicesrestauraunt*

    I found Kumospace a few weeks ago and started using it for work socials (which, awesomely, my leadership okayed for during the daytime instead of happy hour/after work/lunchtime). It’s still video chat, but a much more human style environment. You virtually move around and can hear the people around you, without listening to everyone all together.

  18. Important Moi*

    I’ve stopped commenting but this question touched me.

    LW, in your area of the universe, without having read the link, I would recommend finding someone to “get coffee” with, get some to “discuss if there’s life on Mars” with and so on so forth. Good luck.

    For the meetings, you can ask that everyone briefly turn on their camera before the meeting starts. Some may say no. Some may complain that you dared to ask. I can’t guarantee it will be well received.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I keep my camera on 90% of the time. If it’s off, *there’s a reason*. I would not love being asked to turn it on.

      1. Amaranth*

        I don’t think it should be mandatory for the sake of one person, but if OP mentions liking to see folks if they are comfortable with it, and everyone promises not to judge anyone’s bedhead, others might try it out. It might just be habit now to have cameras off.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yeah, we’ve had a time or two when we had everyone who was willing turn on their cameras do so for the first two or three minutes. It wasn’t required and not everyone did, plus several people turned them off again after that, but it was really nice to see everyone’s faces who participated.

    1. Brett*

      Hmm, something is my cookies is blocking the page in some way, but it is not showing up. I suspect that ad blockers are disabling the page.

  19. Bookworm*

    I’m sympathetic in that some work really does need to be collaborative and some people do thrive on an office atmosphere but at the same time I also wonder if the LW might view the office as an outlet for social needs and it’s clear that’s not reciprocated. This may be less pandemic-related and more of a work culture fit.

  20. Paisley Jones*

    Lots of people are joining Co-Working networks. My brother lives in NYC and has a list of places he can work in and loves it. There is even a place in my very small town. It might be a good compromise and get you out of your apartment.

  21. pdl*

    I hear what you’re saying, OP, but here’s my perspective from the other side. I have a coworker who is clearly very extroverted and does not like working from home. So he calls me. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I end up speaking to him for hours every week. And he does not live alone and from what I hear, has lots of friends and social activities most nights and weekends.

    Now, we are both in this job for less than a year and while I came from doing a similar role, he did not. So I’m happy to help him. But it’s getting annoying. We (of course) have a messaging app, but he does not like to use it. He messages “got a sec?” or “have a quick question” and then wants to get on the phone instead of just asking via message.

    I’ve started cutting down on the length of phone calls, telling him to ask via message, not picking up when he calls, etc. But to be honest, I would rather not have to do all of this. I’m here to do a job and being paid to work, not act as someone’s social outlet. It sounds like you might have to look for something that is a better fit for what you need because it is unfair to ask WFH colleagues to fulfill that need for you. Good luck.

    1. wow*

      the OP is clearly not doing this though – they just miss the part of office work where you get to have water cooler conversations. I’m really astounded at how many people on this site don’t seem to see those conversations as valuable parts of the work day? like not everyone is an emotional vampire some people just like to speak out loud once or twice during the work day as opposed to sit at home alone…are you sure yall don’t want that humourless office after all

      1. Susie Q*

        So here is the thing, I would trapped in those conversations with people I don’t want to talk to or who are the emotional vampires. WFH, I can chat with the people I actually like.

      2. Jackalope*

        I’m with you on this one. I miss having my co-workers around because it’s nice to see faces I don’t live w/ and talk to someone new. I see my housemate whenever I’m downstairs (she’s also WFH right now), and we have lunch together, etc., and I see my husband when he gets home from work, but… it’s nice to get to ask someone what they did for their weekend, and have it not be the same thing I did for MY weekend, because hey – we all did it together! And have already discussed it! Or even just new faces to say good morning to. If someone doesn’t want to chat, I’m happy to leave them alone (and I’ve had co-workers who aren’t big into small talk, so we… just don’t), but it’s nice to have that shallow but regular interaction with the same people.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Your experience is your experience, and yeah, that’s annoying– but it’s not fair to the LW to just straight up assume she’s annoying. I actually doubt that, since she’s not being especially direct about wanting to see people’s faces.

      All of this “people like you are the worst” is really disheartening. She’s struggling. You don’t struggle the same way, fine. She doesn’t deserve to be told she and people like her are blanketly irritating.

      1. JM60*

        I don’t see see where pdl is assuming that the OP is annoying or said anything like “people like you are the worst”. I think they’re merely trying to offer the perspective from someone on the other side of how people in the OP’s shoes can be annoying if they go too far. So far, the OP has only turned their own camera on in an attempt to encourage coworkers to also do so, but some people in these comments are encouraging the OP to go further by pressuring their coworkers to turn their cameras on.

  22. PolarVortex*

    Perhaps the Letter Writer hasn’t considered it, but there are ways to cultivate connection while being remote. I have trained people around the world remotely for years now, and we have great connections, and I haven’t met every one of them in person. It’s all about learning how to build that relationship in a way you didn’t have to before, much like having a relationship go long distance. It may not be as easy as a relationship is in person, but you can do it and be successful at it.

    I don’t know your company culture but here’s a few options:
    – See if there’s fun chatrooms to join to talk about non-work stuff to connect with people in general
    – Coworkers you regularly get a long with: schedule catch up meetings with them. Coffee breaks with them. “Happy Hours” with them. Just little 1:1 or a small group get together. Make it a reoccurring thing, like coffee with two of your cohort fortnightly. (You can also see if you have those long term connections if they want to get coffee/lunch together in the office once a month or something too. Set that up with 4 people that’s one every week!)
    – Learn to chat vs chat. You might prefer face to face chatting but you can still have convos via chats daily without any fuss. It’s essentially the same as dropping by someone’s desk but less irritating because someone can wait to respond until they’re done working on that Extremely Important Task that is due ASAP.
    – See if there’s book clubs, ergs, whatever to join at work that you can get some socializing in.

    All of this is essentially to say that you need to build socializing in to your day. We all know – and if you’re a good manager, budget for – part of people’s work days are around the relationship building stuff. So schedule out time for it. I always know my first 30 mins of my day are going to be catching up with one of my teams with just general chat via chat clients about life to keep that connection with them going. What’s up with them, what I’m up to, pictures of pets/kids/life events/projects. Plus an hour long zoom meeting that is a mix of work and connection building every week. I’ve been doing that for 5 years now with one of my teams, and it makes the very rare times I see them in person much more fun.

    Since it sounds like you’re an extroverted person who’s really motivated by face to face stuff, it may be none of these have/will work for you. So, I do hope you either find a way to feel more connected right now, and ideally find your in person workplace in the longterm.

    1. Colette*

      One of the teams I work on has done 2 things:
      – implemented daily “office hours” for people to drop into a chat room and talk about whatever work problems they are running in to & have people there to help them find solutions
      – Added a Friday afternoon happy hour, where people can talk about whatever they want to, with cameras on if possible

      Those 2 things have made a difference in being able to collaborate, plus in getting to know what’s going on in peoples’ lives, not just their work.

    2. Hell in a Handbasket*

      These are fine suggestions that may help to some degree…but I don’t think they’ll really solve LW’s problem. I’m more of an introvert, have great relationships with my coworkers and plenty of social connections outside work — but I still see a huge value (both personal and professional) in informal, in-person collaboration with my close coworkers, as well as random water-cooler type interactions with those I don’t work with directly. I know not everyone feels this way, but for those who do, virtual connections will never really fill that gap.

      1. allathian*

        Agreed. My job doesn’t involve much collaboration in the day to day work. What little there is, we’ve managed to deal with online without any issues, at least on my end. My closest coworker and I keep a chat open for most of the time we’re online and talk about both work stuff and non-work stuff. He’s on vacation now and I find myself missing our chats just a little bit. My team has weekly meetings on Skype, although most of them have far more meetings than I do.

        What I miss most from the office are the informal coffee break/watercooler chats I had with those I don’t work with directly. But that’s something I can live without until the Covid situation improves to the point that masks and social distancing are no longer either necessary or mandatory at the office. I see absolutely no advantage in in-person meetings while masked over online meetings with cameras on, or even off. Luckily our leadership agrees with me.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Should go w/o saying, but, having more reasons to stay at my computer is not going to make me happier. I know how to use chats. I actually have been online since the days of The Well. I know dead computer languages.

      Popup notifications are anathema to me. Chat boxes raise my blood pressure. And, yeah, if nothing else is possible, sure. But, I already was using my max capacity for that before covid to chat with people on the other side of the globe. I didn’t want to have to do that with people in my office.

      OP might be similar.

      Honestly, many of these suggestion comments se to be saying “get a life” and don’t seem to be very helpful to the OP’s question which was: “How do I communicate this without sounding like the person who wants to ruin everyone’s work-from-home fun?”

      1. allathian*

        Sure. It may just be that the LW is such an outlier in their office that communicating this may be impossible. Especially if the company leadership is happy with the work product. Given how many businesses are forcing their employees to return to the office whether there’s a business need for it or not, it should be relatively easy for the employee to find an in-office job.

  23. MissMapp*

    Is it possible to join a coworking space? That has alleviated the isolation and will give you a more spacious environment. Plus, it’s a change, and creates better work/life balance.

  24. no more wfh*

    OP, I just want to validate your experience. I feel much the same. I really despise working from home, but it feels like everyone else in my life absolutely loves it. I am trying so hard to change my perspective and understand the benefits of WFH but I just really do not like it at all. We seem to be in the minority.

  25. fedupmarketer*

    My global company closed my local office last year and we laid off all local team members (I work globally so kept my job). I HATE working from home. As a self-assessment I think I’m only about 30% as effective as when I’m in the office (I head up my team and my boss doesn’t realise this, I got a great annual review, but I feel it/know the difference). I miss the people, I miss the sense of having a ‘work’ self, I feel I’m out of the loop (and I report to the CEO) . I’ve just handed in my resignation so I can go to an office with people 3 days a week (2 days wfh is fine!). I cannot see how we will be able to train new grads as effectively when they’re fresh out of school. Over the years I’ve made great friends from work, and I feel sad that many new people won’t have that same experience.

    1. Wolfie*

      Thanks for your comment. I’m also less productive at home, but no one seems to care but me. Does my manager even know what my job is? I guess someone might say to me, “If your boss doesn’t care, just relax.” But I can’t. I’m not happy. They just closed my local office. :(

      1. fedupmarketer*

        I’m sorry to hear that! I think some companies are ok with people being less productive if they’re saving thousands and thousands in rent. Hopefully you can either get into a good rhythm with WFH or find a new position (and if more people begin to leave jobs because of 100% WFH maybe more companies will reconsider it). Good luck!

  26. Lynn Whitehat*

    I share the WFH hate. It’s been especially horrible with my kids both doing distance learning. I’m crammed into a desk in a corner of my bedroom. On a typical day, the older one is attending geometry class over Zoom, the younger one is flopping around bored trying to get me to talk to him because there isn’t anyone else, my husband is home from work totally filthy and wanting to strip naked and get into the shower, the dog is barking, and the parakeet is screeching. There’s also probably jackhammering in the street or something too.

    It’s been 15 months, so everyone is understandably out of patience with domestic life intruding on work Zooms. It’s not cute or funny anymore, I get that. There’s an undercurrent of “you haven’t figured out *yet* how to get some quiet and privacy?” Nope! It is not to be had! Our house isn’t all that big, the younger kid can’t get vaccinated yet (under 12) and therefore can’t really go much of anywhere, my husband’s work isn’t getting any less filthy, pets are gonna make pet noises, street crews are gonna jackhammer. There’s also a limit to how much of a hard line I can reasonably take with my family. They didn’t ask for me to set up an office in my bedroom and try to block them out all day.

    We are just starting to go back to the office. I *love* the relative peace and quiet. Even when it was bustling pre-Covid, at least it was bustling with other workers doing work stuff. Not getting naked or barking or anything, for Pete’s sake.

    1. waffles*

      This really resonates with me! I live in an apartment, and my kids are under 5. There isn’t much separation to be had frankly.

  27. ConsultantBae*

    I would add to the OP that maybe not expecting to fulfil needs for camaraderie in the office setting and finding some other outlets could also be helpful? It’s fine to be a person who prefers to be around people, nothing wrong with that, but maybe it doesn’t have to be at work?

    1. LDN Layabout*

      And some people like working among other people even when their social needs are being met?

      I get that this comment section leans really heavily to people who’d be happy never experiencing work-related human interaction ever again but that doesn’t mean everyone does.

      As someone working on a project that would be infinitely easier if I could nudge a good number of someones on IM and go have a quick in person chat with them, I’m 100% looking forward to what’s likely to be a hybrid schedule in my organisation.

      1. ConsultantBae*

        I don’t know that the OP is able to change jobs easily, so I’m just trying to suggest things that might help.

      2. Anon2*

        I just want to say thank you for this; this comment section is so incredibly anti-office socializing that I’ve recently found it quite off-putting to read. There’s a gulf of difference between depending on work as a major social outlet and just enjoying being around others and occasionally participating in small talk. And the latter isn’t wrong!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s way less of it on this post than there usually is (the majority of commenters on this post seem sympathetic to the LW), but it’s definitely been a thing in this comment section in general* and it’s odd. People are human! Most of us enjoy connections with other humans. It’s okay if someone doesn’t, but I wish people would drop the judginess about it.

          * I also don’t know how to square that tendency with the 600+ comments on this morning’s no-humor office letter all saying that joking around in the office is their thing.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            … and as I just noted further down, after reading all the comments, it was literally two people doing it on this post. Only two! I think it illustrates how one or two really strongly worded outlier opinions (which then attract a bunch of attention via replies disagreeing) can feel like more.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              There’s a version that I think you’re not counting: Several commenters wrote with suggestions of co-working spaces or to get a hobby or join a sport club.

              Nowhere does the OP indicate they don’t have a social life. It was about the social interaction with *work* they wrote about.

              I also have zero interest in using a co-working space if I could actually be with my real coworkers. I want my f2f interaction at work to actually be about work or relationship building around work.

              It seems to me that this is misunderstanding the issue of collaboration and also wilfully minimizing the concerns of the OP.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah! I didn’t count those because I didn’t think they were snotty or judgy, just … missing the point. But I see how it contributes to the overall feel.

                1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  Yup. Missing the point is big and with enough of it, it feels like a gaslighting dogpile. (Not dangerous gaslighting!! Just wilfully deflecting.)

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah! In the future it might help if I add something specifically about that to the sort of sticky note I put at the top of this one.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            * I also don’t know how to square that tendency with the 600+ comments on this morning’s no-humor office letter all saying that joking around in the office is their thing.

            Remote humor. =) I’m not joking.

          3. meyer lemon*

            I think it may just be the case that people who realize they have outlier opinions are more motivated to gripe about it than people who have a more balanced approach to office socializing. I guess the world doesn’t offer a lot of natural venues to vent your extreme frustrations about mild office chit-chat.

            1. JM60*

              That, plus saying, “I don’t like interacting with coworkers” in the workplace can have professional consequences. So it makes sense for people to stay quite about that preference at work, and instead express it elsewhere.

          4. JM60*

            It’s normal to like lots of human interaction, but it’s also normal to like limited human interaction, and to even find it tiring. However, people at the far end of wanting more human interaction tend to be able to assert that preference more without being perceived as rude than those who prefer less*, and disliking that asymmetry is valid. Moreover, it makes sense to express your preference for less interaction with coworkers here, where the expressing desire for less interaction with coworkers is less likely to affect you professionally.

            *Once example is that several in this comment section recommended that the OP ask coworkers to turn their camera on. I’m guessing that if the OP did that, individual coworkers who would flat out refuse would be perceived as more rude for refusing than the OP would be for pressuring them to turn it on.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Oh, I fully agree, and in fact my agreement with that going way back is likely what’s responsible for the wild asymmetry in the other direction here. But I think it’s become problematic and I need to figure out how to fix it.

              1. JM60*

                Part of the reason I like coming to your site is to express pet peeves I wouldn’t express at work (or read others echoing the same). I suspect that is a draw for many other here too.

            2. allathian*

              Oh, I don’t know, I’m not sure it applies in this particular case. The default at LW’s company is to keep cameras switched off, and anyone looking to change that might be perceived as off-base, even rude. Especially as leadership seems fine with it and isn’t asking people to turn their cameras on.

              But in general I agree with you.

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          Occasionally you see letters from people who don’t like to say good morning, or can’t deal with answering “how was your weekend”, but I think those are the exceptions.

    2. NotJane*

      There have been a bunch of comments in this same vein – that people should not rely on their office and/or coworkers for camaraderie and socializing. And I don’t entirely disagree. But what I think this perspective overlooks is just how much time one spends at work vs. how much time (and energy) they have left over to socialize outside of work.

      If someone (such as myself) who genuinely thrives on in person interactions (regardless of whether those interactions are personal or professional) spends 40+ hours/week working from home, alone, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for after/out of work socializing, let alone the time to explore new/other outlets for said socializing. That doesn’t mean they rely on their office to fulfill all of their socializing needs or expect that their colleagues will become BFFs. It just means that it’s nice to be able to have a friendly chat in the break room or at the water cooler or wherever.

      1. Jackalope*

        This is also so true. I realized that since I’m using my bedroom as my WFH space, I’m spending literally a minimum of 16 hours/day in this room, and almost the entirety of my awake hours are accompanied by no one but my cats. (Who are great co-workers, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure they’ve learned a lot about my career, but still…) I rarely socialize with my co-workers outside of our job (maybe every other year or so I’ve gone to some sort of event outside of work), and when I’m talking to them at work I’m mostly talking ABOUT work. But it’s still time around people. My WFH schedule has me start work at 7:00 a.m., work until 4:00 or so, spend 20-30 min decompressing on my computer, going for an hour-long bike ride (in the Before Times I rode my bike for commuting, so this is my way of trying to maintain that a bit), get back, and by the time dinner is finished and eaten and all of that, it’s probably at least 7:30. Which still leaves time for doing other stuff, but not a lot. Even on in-office days when I didn’t chat with anyone the whole day except good mornings to the people with desks near me, I still heard the voices of other humans that I knew and liked. Now it’s a lot of…. cat time. And while things are opening up, there are still things I like to do that aren’t an option yet because they haven’t reopened, or because, say, my choir that normally started in the winter and finished in the summer just isn’t going to happen this year because the vaccinations were a bit too late to make it worth it.

  28. Person from the Resume*

    I agree so much with Alison’s answer that I just want to say “ditto”

    … but what I want to add: the LW sounds like she relied on getting lots of personal interaction at work even before COVID to meet her interaction needs. It also sounds like her company is changing to one that is really embracing work from home. I think it comes down to “your job changed and that’s fine but it no longer suits you so its time for you to job hunt.

    I don’t think the LW made the case that the business lost much with WFH because “all the work is getting done” and the bosses don’t care.

  29. Foofoo*

    I live in a large city, with insanely high rents for tiny apartments. I live right in the center of the city, where I can walk to any stores I need within 10 minutes, and I could get to work between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how I commuted there.

    I’m also an introvert, too many people, too much socializing, and I shut down.

    But I miss the office. I miss the small amounts of socializing I could get which would end when I went home. I miss the daily exercise to get to there and back. I miss being able to pop out for a quick snack or lunch and be in a completely different area of the city from where I live. I miss seeing and communicating with people that I don’t normally work with but do share space with (we rarely, if ever, communicate through chat because out-of-sight-out-of-mind, and we don’t rely directly on each others’ work flow).

    I live in a small apartment and pay crazy rent and live in the area I live in because going out to the office supplemented that. It hasn’t been the same with quarantine and 100% working from home, and just staying in my area. Yes, I could make more of a point to get out and explore more, but it hasn’t been easy… going to the office made it easy.

    I like working from home, but I want the option for both, not forced one or the other. I enjoy being able to WFH when I need to focus and keep my head down and minimize distractions, but I want to be able to go in and hang out with coworkers at other times.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I could have written this. It’s not a matter of “I love people vs. I hate people”, it’s usually much more nuanced than that. Totally with you on the exploring too. Hoping to do more of that now that I feel more comfortable being out and about– I miss being out in the world!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I got to visit my new office (in walking distance, surrounded by green space) yesterday and I’m so looking forward to being back 2-3 days a week once restrictions are lifted (we’re currently at you can go in with senior leadership sign-off if there’s a good reason).

    2. Charlotte*

      +100 all of this!

      There’s a very real inertia that I think a lot of people experience–it’s hard to begin motion but easier to keep going–and for me at least getting out and going to work was the obligation that let me get past that initial inertia. I HAD to go out, and once you’re out it’s much easier to keep going than it is to force yourself out when you don’t really have to go (that is, when there’s no external factors).

    3. Birdy*

      This is exactly it – it’s nuanced. Foofoo describes it perfectly.
      I have a job like LW’s that I love, but it is a lot of solo work that is exactly what I signed up for but is extremely isolating to do from home (think writing lots of reports on teapot technologies and policies). The geographic separation of my office from my home and the micro-breaks and small interactions keep me sane.
      It’s not that I depend on my coworkers for socialization (I don’t), or that I interrupt them for problem-solving all the time (hardly ever) or that I think people aren’t being productive (definitely not!). It’s that being around people is an important part of how I manage my workload.

    4. EmmaPoet*

      THIS! It’s nice to be able to talk to the person in the next cubicle about afternoon tea ideas or cute puppies or Depression glass. Running into a coworker in the break room might end with sharing recipes for sour cream cucumbers or a new book they’re enjoying. I’m not a manga fan, but I don’t mind listening to a few minutes on the subject, and as a librarian it’s relevant to my work anyway. At my previous job I logged a good three miles getting there and back using public transportation, now my commute is shorter but I still get in a mile and a half with the odd walk at lunchtime when I can. There are at least 20 options for lunch in a five minute walk radius. There are advantages to WFH, but there’s also good things about being here. I started to feel like a little hermit crab in my apartment last year, and I’m also an introvert.

      1. HiHello*

        I like what you said with the walk. I miss getting ready, getting out of the house, walking to and from lunch (even if it’s just within the same building). I know I can get ready for WFH and go on walks before or after work, but for me this is not enough. I workout a lot for my activity (usually twice a day) but I still miss those small random walks. My physical health really deteriorate while WFH because once I am done with a workout, I don’t want to walk another 3miles to fulfill 10k steps. It’s much easier to get random steps when you are walking between offices, etc. My biggest thing about the whole WFH vs in the office is acknowledging than one isn’t inherently better than the other. It is all very individual and on a scale. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone else. And what works for others, doesn’t work for me,

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Yes, I also normally log a mile or so walking around the building on my shift, more if I run out for lunch. Librarians spend a lot of time on their feet, and that adds up. Even if I don’t manage a pre/post work walk that day, I’ve gotten some exercise between helping patrons and getting to and from the office. It’s hard to motivate myself to do do it on WFH days, especially if it’s hot out.

  30. Brett*

    A consequence that seems to be glossed over with the WFH movement is the long term impacts on job mobility. In my industry, I am already seeing the rapid movement of jobs from north american hub cities to significantly lower cost cities in other countries. This existed before the pandemic, but mostly as outsourcing. Now, full time positions are being moved as well. If your job can be done from home, your job can also be done from Brazil, Hungary, India, or Korea. International physical presence used to be a significant barrier, but the infrastructure being set up for WFH is also removing those physical presence barriers that used to discourage offshoring full time positions.

    1. allathian*

      That’s a fair point, and especially in a country like the US. English is the language with the most second-language speakers in the world.

    2. pancakes*

      That happened years ago in my industry – multinational law firms have been sending document review projects (and research projects, and contract drafting) to teams in India since the early 2000s. Physical presence has not been necessary for a long while now.

    3. Hell in a Handbasket*

      I hadn’t thought about this aspect of it, but I think you’re completely right.

  31. Hates WFH*

    I am fully not understand all of the people who say that OP should just learn to be fine with no interaction at all. We are at work for 40 hours a week….that’s a large percentage of our time. I don’t think the OP is looking for best friends or calling people for hours or some of these things you are insinuating, I think they like to exist in a space with other people, which is a normal need? If you don’t have it, that’s fine, but can we not say that all people who prefer going in to work partially to see their coworkers are somehow bad people, socially oblivious, or need to just go join a choir? I don’t want to add another activity full of strangers to my incredibly busy life, I want to spend my work time in a place with the people who I am working with so I can leave my house, have work life separation, and actually get to know my coworkers. I really don’t think that makes me a terrible person

    1. Hates WFH*

      It just feels really bad to scroll these comments and be like oh damn I guess all the times I thought at my various jobs that I had pleasant acquaintances because we would say hi to each other, everyone actually was secretly thinking these things about me.

      1. Colette*

        I think there is a vocal minority who wants no contact with other people. Most people I’ve talked to miss the social interaction of the office – even though we may not want to give up the good parts of WFH to get it back.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I’m sure there’s a middle ground. When people said hi to me in the office it was pleasant. I just don’t desire it enough to go back

      3. allathian*

        Some people don’t want to have any contact with others, but they’re pretty few and far between. I like my coworkers and enjoy talking with them on during breaks, but I don’t miss it enough to want to go back to the office yet. I don’t miss those who’ll come to my desk to talk about a work task when they could’ve just as well sent an email. Luckily I have the capital to push back on that and ask them to send the email unless it’s something I can solve without looking into it.

        I’m hoping for some kind of hybrid system, preferably one where I can decide when I want to work from home and when I want to go to the office. I’m free to set my hours pretty much as I want and I’d hate to be dictated to like that. Sure, if we’re going to have mandatory in-person development days, I’m fine with that.

      4. pancakes*

        Assuming that people in your life share the views you’ve seen particular commenters on a blog express isn’t likely to give you an accurate view of your own situation. People who comment here aren’t ambassadors for all workers, and aren’t necessarily representative. There’s no good substitute for being an observant person of the people in your own life.

    2. Judd*

      If you want a lot of social interaction at work and you have coworkers who feel likewise, then great. But the problem is when people like that start bothering those of us who are just there to earn a paycheck, and then we have to find polite ways to bow out of the conversation to get back to our work.

      1. Simply the best*

        But OP didn’t ask for that. Nothing in this letter suggests that the op is like that. Nothing in this letter suggests that OP needs to get every ounce of social interaction she can out of work rather than just enjoys being around people instead of isolated for 8 hours every day. And yet there are tons of comments that are suggesting that the op is clearly annoying her coworkers, is clearly overly relying on work for socialization. There’s a whole thread that Alison had to delete because someone was so unkind, assuming OP was some oaf lumbering around making work miserable for all of her coworkers simply because she misses daily human interactions at work and finds the easy collaboration she used to have not there anymore.

        These responses are just unnecessary! It’s fine if you don’t like people and don’t want to be around them. But it’s also fine that other people do. There doesn’t need to be a caveat that comes with saying that. Because guess what? Quiet people can be annoying too.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I didn’t delete any threads on this post. I did move one down so it wasn’t the second one on the page.

          But yeah, Judd, there’s nothing indicating the LW is relying on work to fill all her social needs; she says she finds it harder do to her actual work tasks.

          1. Simply the best*

            Sorry, when I wrote that I hadn’t realized you had moved it down and thought it was deleted because I couldn’t find it anymore at the top.

  32. cubone*

    I want to avoid sounding like the commenter above who I think was cruel in their assessment. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the LW, and PLENTY of people feel this way. But man, I find this “WFH is great vs no it sucks” conversation just …. Exhausting.

    I had it with a colleague the other day, who is really struggling with WFH as well and shared how much they hate not being able to pop by for chats, and how much better they focus in meetings when people have their cameras on. I get it, I really really do! WFH has pros and cons for me too. But having my camera on for every meeting all the time takes so much more coordination (1 bd with WFH partner here too!) and is really really tiring for me personally. So now I’m at an impasse – I know my colleague would be greatly appreciative if I was on camera more, but I have to decide if I’m willing to part with the additional energy it takes out of me. And if I decide no, it’s not, then I know that person is still struggling. It shouldn’t be an either or, but it really feels like it is a lot of the time.

    I guess I just feel like we keep saying what we like and prefer with no real acknowledgment that those preferences so often require someone else to do something that serves US better. I guess thats all human interaction and relationships, perhaps, but it feels like there’s nowhere for this debate to really go, because there’s no right or wrong. When I read or hear something about why people hate WFH, I just want to ask if they understand that those feelings are quite possibly how many of their colleagues felt day in and day out before everything …… I don’t know if this is articulating at all what I am trying to get across. I just wonder if I’m the only person who finds it to be a weirdly exhausting and sad debate.

    1. allabee*

      I think the frustration around this conversation is in part due to the fact that this arrangement arose from traumatic, frightening, scary, and unprecedented circumstances. So it’s already this fraught thing. It’s also, like you said, a true matter of preference, so it’s not like someone who wants to work from home forever will hear a positive anecdote or statistic about the virtues of working in an office and be like, “Ah! My preferences were wrong all along!!”

      However, something that seems guaranteed to make this an even *more* stressful conversation is inferring that others think you are making them suffer, or discounting them, for having a preference either way. I want a hybrid schedule; I miss collaboration; I miss my coworkers; I am sick of Zooming all the time. If someone wants to work from home for the rest of their lives, I understand why they’d want to. I trust that they understand why I’d want to go back to work. If they don’t — well, that’s a choice they’re making that sounds miserable. My preference is not about them, nor is theirs about me. Inferring otherwise seems like a stressful cognitive frame to apply to an already difficult situation.

      1. allabee*

        Sorry, I meant to reply this to another comment you made nested under TopToast’s comment — TT’s has more of the “inferring how other people feel about my preferences” energy to it that I’m speaking of.

        1. cubone*

          Haha, half my comments are nesting fails, truly.

          I appreciate your comment and this lens! I might not’ve been quite careful enough in my phrasing, but truly, I don’t believe for a second my colleague (to use my own example) thinks or feels that I am choosing to make them suffer. I think it’s more that *I* find it hard, personally, to know that I am choosing to do something they’d prefer I didn’t. Does that make more sense? I don’t think my colleague thought about it from my perspective for a second, but I feel sort of weighed down with the knowledge that my preference = their pain point. But maybe that in itself is really the issue, sort of like you said – applying this cognitive frame that I should feel guilty for choosing something that impacts someone else negatively (but I’d really… rather not if I could help it).

          It of course really depends on the person. This colleague I just really felt for – they’re clearly having a hard time and I want to help them. But at my old job beginning of the pandemic, I had a colleague who was absolutely distraught by the lack of interaction and was asking for daily “coffee chats” because it was so helpful for her, but it was completely burning me out! The lack of awareness she had (like not even asking IF you wanted to have a chat, just “can I call you to chat, it’s so hard WFH :(” ) truly did feel quite selfish (or at least, very short-sighted… but that person was also selfish and short-sighted in the office, so).

          I also really appreciate your first point too – it’d be one thing if society at large just up and decided to explore working from home, but that’s not what happened at all. We’ve been thrown into it without choice or control, so everything feels fraught and tender (for lack of a better word).

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      I think you are really on to something here, and I have wondered if WFH isn’t just highlighting the competing needs because now we have had an option for the first time. I actually think this is the case with a lot of things that are causing strife during the pandemic: it highlighted that we can do things in a different way (in some cases) and for many, I think the push to “reopen” feels like a push to give up things the worked for some of us and go back to being quietly uncomfortable or unhappy with things (or not being able to access it at all, in certain cases) because there is “no alternative.”

      As a non-work example, I am not a fan of crowds. I don’t like feeling trapped and it feels draining to be around so many people. In the before times, I planned some activities around avoiding crowds, like going to a particular store early in the morning or picking a non-peak movie time. Places having much lower occupancy limits was my dream. The idea that I could go to a store or a museum or the like, and not have people on top of me at all times was amazing. I went to a popular store early in the morning during COVID once, and I waited briefly on a line to be admitted, but once inside I was able to look at everything and pick what I needed without dealing with a crowd of people. In the before times, I would go there and even early in the morning, find people who brought their whole family shopping, because it was a way to get the kids out of the house and doing something or not to have to worry about childcare, or people standing in front of displays talking on the phone.

      Were those people wrong for wanting (or needing) to bring their whole family to the store or pick up a cell phone call from someone they really wanted to talk to? Nope. That is the way they wanted to live, or at least they decided it was the best option for them, and I had to deal with being uncomfortable in the crowd or build my day around avoiding it as best I could. During the time of lowered capacity though, I got to have this experience in a way that made me happier and more comfortable, and it sucks to lose that.

      So when it comes to work, and you have people who want more and more time in the office for everyone; who want cameras on in meetings always; or who want there to be a culture of immediate access to people, it does feel exhausting because it doesn’t seem like people realize they are just substituting their preferences for the default instead of seeing if there is a way to perhaps get closer to meeting more people’s needs. You aren’t alone in being exhausted by it. This whole thing has made me less than eager to re-engage with society in general.

    3. Wolfie*

      I think it could be about choice? I already knew before Covid that I hated working from home. Yes, I was happy to have the opportunity to work from home for safety, but I still hated it. Now, my employer has just closed my office, and I continue to not have a choice, and I’m freaking out a bit.

      Some people really love WFH, but they are afraid their employer will force them to go back. Again, it’s not their choice. Even though I hate WFH, I hope most people will get the hybrid option, and that they can choose.

    4. Tali*

      Totally agree. Only a very few people are perfectly happy at the office or at home all the time, and only some people are effective working 100% at one or the other (and these are not necessarily the same people!). I bet there is a huge chunk of people who would be mostly happy with 100% WFH or in-office if there wasn’t a pandemic keeping people trapped at home, and if they could have a proper workstation. And I bet there are many people who would like a hybrid plan to take advantage of each kind.

      It’s very strange to me that this conversation turns into all-or-nothing every time it comes up. And I find it very ironic that people who seem to hate interacting with others are very vocal and social online! There is a wide spectrum of work preferences that we are oversimplifying.

      1. allathian*

        There’s a world of difference between interacting online and interacting in person. You don’t have to be “on” in the same way when you’re online. Of course, being on camera requires being a bit more “on” than if you’re just using audio or even texting. I see the value of socializing in person, but for many introverts, I suspect it’s the requirement to be “on” all the time that’s exhausting, rather than the interaction itself.

  33. Junior Dev*

    I am loving this even as a person who really misses having an office to go to:

    “But if it’s mostly about missing the camaraderie of the office and the ability to have spontaneous conversations … that’s probably not going to change if everyone else is happy. (Some of your co-workers would probably tell you that what you see as spontaneous conversations, they see as disruptions to their focus. Others would agree it’s a loss but think it’s trumped by the benefits of getting to work remotely.) That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with what you want, just that it depends on other people wanting it too, and it sounds like they don’t.”

    I was able to set my own boundaries about talking to people by wearing headphones and being at the end of a row of desks that wasn’t easy to just stop by, but other people’s office noise was so bad it would bleed through the noise-cancelling headphones and make it impossible to concentrate.

    But I’m also feeling pretty isolated working from home–I had a roommate for a while, but once they lost their job and were at home all the time (they’d worked in retail and got fired about 6 months into the pandemic) things felt suffocating, not social, with them.

    Now the roommate has moved out and I’m working on trying to find ways to get my out-of-the-house time and social time in regularly, because the default is for me to go all day without seeing another person and that’s rough on my mental health. But my mental health also didn’t love being in a loud overstimulated crowded office environment! I actually took medical leave for mental health in 2019 and one of the reasons was that I was having panic attacks at my desk.

    Anyway, I know this is one of those things where people tend to have very judgemental things to say about someone with a different preference, but as someone whose need for socializing weirdly straddles the line between “I go stir-crazy if I don’t casually chat with people and put on real clothes and leave the house” and “I literally cannot think if other people are having conversations within earshot” I empathize with both sides of this. I hope OP finds the right job for their preference.

  34. allabee*

    I relate to this as a single person working from a one-bedroom apartment in a city. I am really looking forward to working in a hybrid schedule.

    OP, I know these may seem like basic problem-solving tips so ignore if they aren’t relevant. Have you considered working with a friend at a coffee shop once a week? I schedule tasks that don’t require two screens for this time, as well as things that are just cognitively a little easier since my friend and I will be inevitably be chatting a bit. Even doing this for two hours can be rejuvenating.

    I also recommend looking into virtual co-working sites. I don’t want to sound like a shill but I’ve found Focus Mate exceptionally helpful — 2 minute intro where you state your goals, 50 minute head down work with muted sound, 2 minute wrap up. It gives me structure, of course, but I’ve also been surprised at how talking to people in short bursts lifts me up. One guy I co-worked with stated his goal was to “write his employee the best letter of recommendation I possibly can!!” and it truly brightened my day. Another worked in the same field as me and we commiserated about a common problem. You can also replicate this experience with friends through Zoom who are in similar boats as you.

  35. Veronica*

    Some things my company has done include having a sign up sheet to let people know if you plan to be in the office. It’s not required, but it helps if you want to work on days when other people will be there. We also plan to have days where people from a particular work group are encouraged to work on the office. Lunch is provided and there is a brief update from a volunteer or two on projects they are working on. It helps with group cohesion and connection, bit stop allows people to have flexible schedules and work from home regularly.

  36. Toptoast*

    Just taking this moment to remind all the “I hate WFH because it’s very isolating” people… The way you feel now is the way many of us felt for decades: uncomfortable, twisted against our nature, forced to be in an office, forced into hallway and water cooler chitchat, out of our comfort zone. And with being in the office being The Norm, we were treated as selfish or childish if we expressed that dislike.

    I sympathize with you, I truly do, because I know exactly how you feel because I felt that way for six years, all day every day, crying through my commute because I wanted to be at home. So just please, don’t frame WFH as “fun.” It’s just another type of system that works for a different kind of people. Be sensitive to others’ preferences and realize that what feels like torture to you could be delightful normalcy to another, and your delightful normalcy could be another person’s torture.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      We had a very vocally anti-WFH VP at one time, who saw every request for WFH as “oh so you basically want a day off”. A report of theirs asked to WFH while preparing for a cancer surgery. The department head approved. The VP then summoned the report back into the office and chewed them out, saying “you’re taking advantage of your situation”. And this VP was far from being the only one, I recall the range of management’s emotions about WFH running from “sigh, okay, I will allow it” to “no way, work from home is not work”. I’m relieved that we are now at least all in agreement that WFH is, in fact, work.

      (We had a layoff a few years ago and this VP was the first person to be escorted out. I may or may not have opened a bottle of Scotch at home that evening that I’d been saving for a special occasion.)

      1. Need to Remain Anon for this one*

        Yup, yup, yup. I found out recently that our top level management has basically said, when speaking to lower levels of management, that they don’t think us peons are really working. I don’t know how they think things have been kept running for the last year and a half, but in their minds the only reason people might want to work from home is because they are trying to scam.

        Meanwhile… to me this sounds like projection, since if you asked me what those folks were doing for the big bucks… I couldn’t even say.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’m getting the impression that 90% of top level management’s work is done in meetings. Y’all are not in meetings all day, so they are confused about what else you can even be doing, heh heh.

    2. cubone*

      Thank you – this is what I wanted to articulate in my other comment above (but did so less eloquently). I completely respect other people’s preference, but I also don’t know what to do about the fact that the thing that makes me more productive/happy/effective is making my colleagues suffer, basically.

    3. Autistic AF*

      Thank you. I recognize that there are a variety of circumstances around which we form opinions around where we work, but the spontaneity that LW misses is kryptonite for people like me. I cannot focus with a lot of conversation going on around me, and it can take me a long time to regain focus when I’m distracted. I’m happy with a pair of lightweight headphones, but I’ve been denied this accommodation for the same reasons that LW wants to go back in to the office. I’m industrious and I’m an excellent problem solver, but I typically think best on my own.

      I want people like LW to be able to go back to the office… But it would be so nice to temper that with a mindfulness of other people’s working styles. Think “Autistic AF needs me to check in via Slack before I call/pop by.”

    4. Simply the best*

      Teleworking has been around for decades. That you didn’t pursue those jobs is a choice you made. I didn’t make a choice for a deadly global virus to send me home on a random Thursday for 3 weeks that stretched into 15 months, in a small apartment that doesn’t have a designated workspace. I also didn’t make a choice for that same virus to make it so that not only was I isolated at work, I was also isolated from family and friends in every other aspect of life.

      This was an acute trauma that occurred. It’s not the same thing as the choices you’ve made.

      1. Autistic AF*

        No one here has chosen the circumstances you’re talking about – COVID has been traumatic for the vast majority of us, full stop. Some of us feel it differently, or in different strengths, but there’s plenty of room to enjoy working from home and also be isolated from family and friends.

        Trauma is also a factor in the choices many of us make – the job that refused to let me wear headphones continued to mistreat me and I eventually left to preserve my health. I didn’t make a choice to have an invisible disability.

      2. JM60*

        Most people haven’t had the option to WFH, and many who are able to chose to WFH have it taken away from them. I was one of the lucky few to land a job that let everyone WFH 2 days a week, and the WFH was a key reason why I took it. However, a new CEO killed that WFH policy in late Feb 2020, just weeks before all offices in my industry closed. She did that without consulting anyone at the ground level, since it was a very unpopular decision (they later did an survey that showed only ~5% of employees preferred the traditional 5 days/week in the office and the rest split between primarily WFH or a hybrid approach).

    5. ToodlesTeaTops*

      There’s plenty of posts about WFH that celebrates it. I don’t see why you have to stand on someone having a difficult time just to be like “I suffered for years so you need to think about my needs before yours” tone of your post. That’s not helpful to the LW and doesn’t make anything better at all for them.

      TBH It sounds like you have a weird work situation going on. It’s not normal for people to cry every day before going to work.

  37. Rayreign*

    Ha. I truly love how some of these people who miss the “camaraderie” of the office completely miss that there were people who absolutely hated them “dropping in” and “spontaneously” talking through a problem with them. Like, you’re one of the biggest reasons I’m so happy to be working from home. Just let me do my work and get back to my real life. This is a job and I am not your friend.

    Do I have empathy for this person? Sure. Do I also think they probably have some people-awareness issues? Also yes.

    1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      But in some jobs those spontaneous problems arise whether you’re WFH or not…and they need to be solved whether you’re in the office or not. So WFH only slows down the process because people are substantially harder to reach or aren’t willing to be reached. Most of us hate dealing with spontaneous issues…but they still need to be dealt with.

      1. Rayreign*

        I don’t think it’s the spontaneous problem issue. We all have those and all deal with them appropriately. My WFH allows me to efficiently prioritize what the biggest issue for me at that moment is. If someone just grabs me in the office, it’s immediately their problem that’s the biggest issue. If you need to get ahold of me for an immediate issue, I’m responsive on Slack and via Webex. If the issue is lack of responsiveness, that may be exacerbated slightly by WFH but WFH is not the root cause.

        I’m more productive WFH because I can prioritize fire drills by actual issue, and not just because you’re in my face most aggressively.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          It’s possible that WFH is not the root cause, but WFH makes it much easier for someone to be unresponsive than if I’m at their desk. I’m glad to hear you’re responsive on Slack/e-mail – it’s how I would originally bring something up in the office as well. But if I don’t get a response for 24 hours in the office, I have a secondary option – which is ask in person – if I don’t get a response when WFH via slack or phone or e-mail…there’s nothing I can do to solve the problem that is my fire drill.

          I get it, WFH works for many people, and I am happy for them – but feeling handcuffed by it doesn’t mean that we inherently have a people-awareness issue or are aggressive in some way. For some jobs, they are much easier in person.

          1. Smithy*

            Here here.

            My job involves a huge amount of coordination between different teams with different priorities, timelines, etc etc etc. If someone ignoring your emails will drive you batty, my job is not for you. So yeah, having “follow-up plans” that include slack, phone, email, office drive bys. creepily lingering by a coffee machine – and in some cases washing my hands extra long while they finish in the toilet……

            Another big part of my job is doing all of that while trying to be socially aware so it’s not wildly off putting – but the reality is that it’s all done because that initial email got ignored. And it’s a workplace where that ignoring isn’t truly punished and it is considered part of my job to track answers down.

            1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

              I could have written your response word for word, haha. I live in a world where if the problem gets solved…no one really cares that it’s always the same 2 people solving it and the rest are sitting on their hands. Is that perfect? No. But it’s been the case in all places I’ve worked in my industry, so it seems relatively normal.

          2. Jack Russell Terrier*

            Yes – this is the situation. It’s the lack of response or engagement that is the real problem.

            I love brainstorming myself – although I’ve not worked in an office in decades! Often it doesn’t have to be immediate and I’ll send a quick note saying – do you have time to hop on a call today or tomorrow to noodle X with me? Then I can do that sort of problem-solving. The problem seems to be that for her, this note would get crickets.

          3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’ve reread this several times; how does it not boil down to “good coworkers need to be forced into the office so C&C has an easier time haranguing the bad ones?”

            Like Richard Hershberger* says below, if I can ignore you, that’s a management problem, not a workplace-location problem.

            1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

              I don’t think anyone needs to be forced anywhere. To be fair, the majority of the people I’ve spoken to in my office seem to want to go back in because our jobs are significantly harder without it.

              I don’t want to harangue anyone, and I don’t think I do. But I do think some industries and jobs are different than others. Just today, I worked with 10 different teams with 10 different sets priorities, some of which don’t consider communication with other departments to be the key focus of their roles. And in many cases, it shouldn’t be! It doesn’t make them “bad coworkers” or “bad at their jobs”. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need the answer…and it is much easier to just go ask rather than send them multiple slacks or e-mails which DOES feel like haranguing.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                For stopping by my desk to be an option to resolve the communication you’re not getting, I have to be in the office and at that desk. That doesn’t work if you go in and I remain off site.

                Harangue may be a strong word for it, but by coming to my desk you’re trying to leverage your presence (and the threat that you’ll distract, interfere, harass, or otherwise escalate the situation) into a response. That doesn’t make me sound like a great co-worker.

                1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

                  Correct, it’s why I don’t believe WFH is as effective for every industry or every job.

                  And yikes. I mean…this is what collaborative work is all about? Members of these groups often do the same – come to my desk when they need something that I haven’t responded to…it’s not a threat of any sort, it’s making sure I’m aware of the priority and checking to see where I’m at on it. A totally proper response is “I haven’t had a chance yet because of xyz” or “let me get back to you about that by EOD/next week/etc.”. “Leveraging their presence” doesn’t mean they are bad coworkers, it means they need something. Jobs are different. Perhaps yours doesn’t require that kind of collaboration, but mine does, and WFH makes it more challenging.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  My condolences that remote work has made your job harder, C&C. I don’t want to delve any further into this rabbit hole–as Alison’s response to a different comment reminds me, this is not the place to disagree with LW.

                  I truly believe there have to be a better cases for returning to the office, ones that don’t need to assume employees are not being good coworkers to each other.

                3. Curiouser and Curiouser*

                  I agree, and totally understood. I also think that arguments against going back into the office being that people secretly hated everyone who came to their office and spoke to them despite that not being all of our experiences (not you, but the OP of this thread would be an example) are not necessarily realistic as well. There are different needs for different jobs, and in person collaboration isn’t always bad.

                4. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  Actually, maybe *me* stopping by your desk (or, really, *passing* by your desk) is to see if you’re even in the office.

                  I have a job where people of all levels can be out of the office on a site, meeting with a client, at an archive doing research (not everything is online) or in, but, in the lab, in the library, in a meeting, or whatever. If you’re one of those or at your desk and on the phone or looking like you’re concentrating, I’ll walk off and either have thought of the answer while I walked or I’ll email it or ask someone else.

                  Tangentially, I get interrupted less at the office than I do at home. Home has animals, neighbors, a teen…

          4. pleaset cheap rolls*

            There needs to be balance between being alone and working with others, sometimes relatively spontaneously. I think have a nice balance at my job – scheduled meeting, plus posts and chat in MS Teams. And some spontaneous calls – we’ll be chatting and someone will say “Can I call you?” And the other’s answer honesty “Sure” or “I’m in another meeting” or “Busy”

            And sometimes we even shut down chat if we’re really busy.

            I think we’ve got most of the benefits of in-person while working from home with this relative openess to connecting as needed.

          5. Rayray*

            Agree. Sometimes people need help or need an answer. I’m sick of people acting like it’s rude to actually speak to you when you need something. You’re there to work, and part of work for many jobs (OP’s job for sure as they described it) do call for collaboration with others.

            I’ve always been one who much prefers email/teams/jabber etc but if someone isn’t responding, then those methods aren’t working and I need to either call or go to their desk. Humans need to interact with each other, it seems like some people are throwing al their people skills out the window anymore.

            1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

              Yes, thank you, I think this describes it better than I did, haha. It doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything wrong by not responding…it just means that sometimes I need an answer or I need to bring something to someone’s attention, and just talking to them is sometimes the only way to do that. (I too would prefer to do literally everything via writing, lol, but that unfortunately isn’t always realistic for my job).

            2. JM60*

              Seeking help isn’t usually rude, but it’s generally a good thing if the person you’re seeking help from is able to prioritize based on the urgency and importance of the issue, rather than who is most persistent. If I’m working on something high priority, and someone comes to my cubical with something low priority that they need help with, it’s harder to politely turn them down. Sometimes, being able to de-prioritize requests when you’re not in-person can be a good thing.

          6. Amaranth*

            OP’s letter strikes me as possibly being rather passive in their approach however. They turn on their camera in hopes that it will prompt people to fall in line, but don’t mention asking people if they can all try to use cameras so they have some FTF time. They only mention directly addressing anything with their direct manager who does try to reach out on their own. I think OP needs some scripts for asking their manager and coworkers for faster feedback and more interaction. They seem to be waiting for it to happen organically, and with WFH it takes more effort.

      2. Joan Rivers*

        Not only is it possible to solve problems by talking to each other in person, it’s also possible to forestall future issues because sometimes that comes up and you figure out a way around it.

        And “zoom meetings” don’t necessarily do that.

        And informal “brainstorming” sometimes happens spontaneously as well — some have no idea what brainstorming is or why it’s helpful, but creative fields know.

        Even if you’re a CPA you may be able to think of a new way to solve a problem. Or maybe you never come up with anything new, because you do the same thing every day. But problem-solving is a part of most jobs. I wouldn’t brag if I felt I never needed any intellectual input.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        In my workplace, the preferred method was IM (which is what I used too whenever I had a question). This way, the other person gets a chance to wait for a break in whatever they are working on, look up the information on my question, and have a productive discussion with me on their time frame. Because it is an IM, they know it is kind of urgent, so will get back to me quickly.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          We did that too! The system is usually…E-Mail, IM, Slack, Phone, and then In Person. But you’d be shocked at how many people I have to get to that last one with to get a response. Working with so many groups, all with their own priorities, make responsiveness more and more challenging every day!

          1. allathian*

            Indeed. And a part of the challenge is recognizing that something that is a high priority for you may not be a high priority for the person whose input you need, or even for the organization as a whole.

            1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

              Correct. However, I feel like I’m pretty good at making that distinction! I wouldn’t escalate something that is categorically not a priority for the company.

      4. Sharon*

        Funny, I find it’s SO much easier to collaborate when everybody is working remotely. Everybody’s at their desks available for a quick phone call instead of bopping around the office! I can get a quick answer instead of waiting half the day for someone to read my email or check voice mail. If you can’t reach your colleagues for input you need, that’s a problem regardless of where they are working.

        But if your workplace is changing, and you don’t like it but it works for everybody else, you probably want to look for a new job better suited to how you do your best work.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          Definitely true! Luckily, I don’t think my workplace is changing…we’ll be returning to the office and the majority of people I talk to seem to be on the side of it being a good thing. But the grumblers will be there too ;)

          I think the difference between your situation and many (at least mine) is this sentence “Everybody’s at their desks available for a quick phone call instead of bopping around the office!” I find that many of these unresponsive people are NOT just at their desks available for a quick phone call…because now they don’t have to be. I can reach some people for input and some are regularly out of contact…and it’s the same ones I would need to track down in the office in person. Now I just don’t have that option any more!

          1. PT*

            Unresponsive people are usually unresponsive for two reasons, either they are overloaded at work (my boss whose job had her out of office and in offsite meetings all the time, we never knew where she was, and everything was On Fire at the home office, and she had to squeeze her actual job in between firefights and offsite meeting obligations) or they are pointedly dissembling “I’m so busy!” so they can get as little work done as possible, like Michael Scott in the Pretzel Day episode or the one where he gets nothing done all day because he has to initial three different stacks of papers by 5 pm and it’s too much work.

    2. Cat Lover*

      This seems a bit mean-spirited. OP also is struggling with living in a small, isolated space in a city. WFH is hard when you don’t live in large spaces. (I never WFH since I’m in healthcare so I don’t have any personal feelings attached.)

      1. Me*

        Agreed. Feels very much hahaha you people who work like that are jerks and everyone else in the office hated you.

    3. Xavier Desmond*

      That is incredibly unfair. We are all different and thrive in different working environments. Just because you prefer one way doesn’t mean the other person has “people awareness issues”

      1. JM60*

        I think the “people awareness issues” was in reference to socializing with a coworker without realizing that the coworker doesn’t want to socialize (and is only playing along to get a paycheck).

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. Although I guess I’m happy that I don’t work in an at-will environment, because I’ve never worked anywhere that I couldn’t simply say “sorry, I’m on an urgent deadline, gotta go”. All the jobs I’ve ever worked, being too busy to talk has always been an acceptable excuse to avoid socializing.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oh come on. You are allowed to feel that way, and the LW is allowed to feel as she does too. People are different! They have different needs! Your way is not right nor wrong, and the same can be said about the LW’s way. It’s just individual preference. She very likely doesn’t have “people-awareness” issues, good grief.

      Guess what? Some of us like people sometimes AND we like to be left alone sometimes. Omg, impossible!

      1. allathian*

        Agreed, I’m just like that! I’ve both been the one who’s been told to “please go away, can’t you see I’m busy,” or words to that effect, and who’s had to say something like that to others. I’ve always been very apologetic when someone asks me to leave, because I’m usually quite good at reading the room to avoid interrupting anyone. This happens to people who when they see me are welcoming and greet me with a cheerful greeting and a smile no matter how busy they are, rather than barely acknowledging my presence with a wave and then turning their gaze back to their screen.

        I rarely need to go and interrupt anyone for work reasons, more often it’s because I feel like I could use a break and would rather socialize with a coworker than sit alone.

    5. Eden*

      It seems pretty harsh to say they “probably have some people-awareness issues”. I miss spontaneous brainstorming and since my coworkers would initiate it just as often, it certainly doesn’t mean I have people-awareness issues. If people are dropping by more than you’d like, try saying “do you mind slacking me before you come over, I find my flow gets interrupted easily, thanks”.

    6. allabee*

      I think your comment, and not the OP’s letter reflects a lack of ‘people-awareness issues’ in its dismissiveness. People feel differently about office arrangements, and there are real pros and cons to each. Disagreeing with the OP doesn’t mean their stance is illegitimate or that they are somehow deficient in soft skills (which strikes me as a true reach to infer.)

    7. JillianNicola*

      Obviously a little snippet in time and not the full picture of you as a person, but solely from the information I have you sound like a ~*delight*~ to work with.
      Maybe 20 years of retail has broken my brain when it comes to interruptions and spontaneous problems but I feel like dealing with them graciously is just part of life, never mind virtually every job out there.

    8. Unkempt Flatware*

      If you could have said this in a kinder tone, I would have agreed with you. My skin crawled when I read the spontaneous problem-solving talks but this is how the LW feels and therefore the feeling is true and real. It is so nice to hear from all POVs on this topic so we can better navigate our world going forward. You and I will stay at home as long as possible to avoid the spontaneity and keep our heads down and the LW and other face-time folks can freely speak and do their work without us glowering at them.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        There are aspects of my job, that arise all the time. If I did’nt brain storm with a co-worker for a solution it would have either never been solved or taken me hours upon hours. Everyone’s job is different.

    9. Knope Knope Knope*

      Ouch. You don’t need to make the LW feel worse or like she was an annoyance. Sure, some people are bothered by spontaneous drop-ins but many people find meaningful friendships or at least enjoyable acquaintances at work.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Coworkers popping in with random questions were one of my pet peeves when we worked in the office. If my head is in “working on a whole different problem” space, I won’t be able to magically produce your answer for you on the spot, much less brainstorm with you on zero-minute notice. All you’ll get from me would be a deer in the headlights look and a “I’ll have to write this down and get back to you on it later”. And let me tell you, the poppers-in did not like that answer! One male coworker asked if I was having a “bad day or a… (pause) bad week?” (I will never stop cringing at that.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Thank you! I finally had to tell him he was creeping me out. He avoided me after that. Worked for me.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, I hate the spontaneous interruptions. If you email me or Slack me, I can get to it right away if need be or later if need be. Unless it’s an urgent emergency that has to be taken care of now (which should be rare), there’s no reason to ever interrupt me.

    11. Lady Glittersparkles*

      I also have empathy for the letter-writer, and I wouldn’t assume that they have people-awareness issues from this letter. But I also hear where you are coming from generally- last year I had a co-worker in an open office space who would constantly interrupt me to chat to the point where I found it difficult to get anything done. To be fair, I am conflict-avoidant and never expressed this to her directly which I absolutely should have done, but at the same time I was really annoyed that she never picked up on what I thought were clear non-verbal signals that I was busy!
      I think issues like this can be avoided by simply asking a coworker whether it’s a good time to chat before launching in. Sometimes it is nice to just process something with a coworker spontaneously, but I always, always ask first!

      1. allathian*

        Yes, always ask first. That said, with some people non-verbal signals aren’t enough and if you’re conflict-avoidant to the point that you can’t say that you’re too busy to chat, then your conflict avoidance has contributed to the problem. I’m glad that you recognize that you should have said something to the constant interrupter.

    12. StressedButOkay*

      That’s incredibly harsh and unfair. I love WFH but there are days I long for the ability to just step into someone’s office to grab their ear for 5 minutes. It is simply not the same as doing it by phone or Zoom. I could just knock on someone’s door and ask if they’re free for 5 minutes to talk something through. A Zoom call, for wrong or right, feels like we need to schedule it and it NEVER lasts 5 minutes.

      OP doesn’t have a people-awareness issue. They do something a certain way, a way that a lot of people did before COVID. And it works/worked for a lot of folks. Just because it didn’t for you, doesn’t mean you should disparage the OP.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I adore working from home (have for years), prefer working solo with tons of heads-down time, and never plan to have an office job again. Yet I totally agree on the 5 minutes thing. That’s the one thing missing for me. Coming from a creative background, it’s always been part of the process to ask someone “Hey can I show you this real quick?” Yes, I can ping you on Slack and ask if you have five minutes to pop on Zoom. But what’s really going to happen is I’ll spin my wheels for a while trying to solve it on my own and decide if it’s meeting-worthy, and if we do talk it will mean scheduling a convo that will likely take more than 5 minutes, and probably occurs hours after I really needed the help. In the end, I’m a lot less likely to engage and that negatively impacts my work. Obviously I can work on improving how I approach this, but it’s definitely gunk in the gears. Not everyone does collaborative work so maybe it’s not a thing for everyone but it is a fundamental challenge in my business.

    13. Temperance*

      I definitely don’t miss all the people who would send me an email, and then walk on over to talk something through. While I was actually busy!

      1. Rayray*

        Oh man, not many things annoy me more than the people who click send and immediately prance over to my desk to ask if I got their email.

        1. PT*

          When I was Llama Barn Director I used to get this. Someone would send me an email, then immediately call my desk, and then come back looking for me and find me…in the barn, in my barn clothes and boots, doing sloppy messy Llama Barn Work. “I called you and sent you an email, why didn’t you answer me, why did I have to come ALL THE WAY BACK HERE to find you?”

          Because I am the LLAMA BARN DIRECTOR which means I work in the LLAMA BARN and sometimes I will be at my desk and sometimes I will be in the barn.

    14. BethRA*

      Where does the OP “completely miss that there were people who absolutely hated them “dropping in” ” They seem to have a clear understanding that the WFH piece does work, and work better, for some people.

    15. Funrun*

      Agreed! I enjoy most of my coworkers as people and genuinely enjoy talking with them…however if I can work uninterrupted and complete my work faster because people aren’t randomly popping by for a quick chat, I’m always going to prefer to extending my day at work to socialize.

    16. EventPlannerGal*

      Don’t worry. If this is how you speak to people who are obviously having a hard time in a difficult situation then I don’t think you have to worry about people wanting to be your friend.

    17. hbc*

      While I’ve seen my fair share of people who pop in and interrupt important work with whatever minor issue happened to cross their mind, I’ve seen plenty who think “I should be able to do my work without interruption” and are equally lacking in people-awareness. They think other people should intuit when they’ll be at a stopping point or don’t take into account that their personal efficiency sometimes has to be sacrificed for the greater efficiency of the company.

      See also: the solo HR person who decided he would only come in two hours a day because people (who didn’t have email accounts) kept trying to talk with him about their HR issues and he “wasn’t getting anything done.”

      1. Rayray*


        Sure you have your busy work to do, but as an employee, most people still have to collaborate with others. I’ve definitely had coworkers who would snap at me for asking a question about our work and they’re definitely not pleasant to work with. Then there were people who were polite and patient. We were all there to work, why would I dismiss someone who just needed some help or clarification on something?

        In my mind, it was always the people who had an attitude and yelled at me or got snippy that I considered to be bad coworkers and to lack people skills. They definitely made things more difficult than necessary and they’re the ones I would consider to lack basic decency and people skills vs people who tried their best to maintain politeness even when they were stressed and busy.
        The people who could spare 1 minute or let me know they’d be available later we’re much better skilled to work with people.

        1. Simply the best*

          Agree with this totally. Unless you work 100% working for yourself, you’re part of a team. So you and your work are actually not the most important thing. Other people also have work to do and sometimes that means you’re going to be interrupted so that their work can get done.

      2. JM60*

        They think other people should intuit when they’ll be at a stopping point

        You can sometimes request help from someone without interrupting them. If something is reasonably suited for email and isn’t urgent, then it’s often considerate to email them so that you don’t interrupt them and they can prioritize your demand against other demands for their time. Even if something isn’t suited for email because it needs to be real-time, IM/Slack may work without breaking their flow too much.

    18. Seacalliope*

      This is a really combative and unpleasant response. The LW expressed a feeling they know to be out of synch with both their own company culture and the pop culture portrayal of WFH and you decide they don’t actually know it’s out of synch or why others like WFH? Come on.

    19. Roscoe*

      Wow, you sound like a pleasure to be around. Do you shake your fist angrily at the sky too?

      Yes, people have different work styles. Everyone gets that. But assuming this person has people awarness issues because you like to tell others to stay off your lawn is a bit much

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t know, I think there’s value in people reading the responses to this kind of thing, many of which have been excellent explanations of the problem with thinking that way.

    20. NerdyKris*

      It’s not helpful to dismiss other’s ideas as “people awareness issues”, given that you’re completely discounting the LW’s issues yourself. For starters you’re showing a complete lack of awareness of all the problems WFH causes in some positions. You’re assuming that everyone is in your exact situation, and anyone saying they don’t like working from home is an outlier who needs to pay attention.

    21. Anonymous Hippo*

      Like other people have said, I think this is a tad harsh.

      But, I’ve found you can reduce the number of interruptions by drop-ins significantly with a pretty easy trick. I wear my headset all the time. People come to the door and see I have my headset on, and we make eye contact, and if I’m actually on a call, or need to not be interrupted at that moment I just point to the headset, and if I’m in the space I can chat, I wave them in.

      I get more physical work done when I’m home, but a lot of people find it easier to make connections in person, and maintaining those connections (however it needs to be done) is important in order to have the information needed to do my physical work. So while I’m a die-hard WFHer, I know in my business, 100% WFH is not going to be a thing, and some kind of hybrid is definitely needed in order to maintain the relationships needed to truly excel at my job.

    22. F-in A*

      At this risk of sounding like a character from OFFICE SPACE, you are ignoring what is good for the company you work for. Yes, insights do emerge around the water cooler. No, if you don’t care about innovation, you aren’t doing your utmost for the company. To be sure, you may not care, but that also means you may miss out on promotions and such.

  38. Oreo*

    I feel you OP! I was onboarded right when the pandemic hit and we all went remote overnight. I’m all about flexibility and whatever makes sense for everyone’s situation but from just a personal stand-point it has been very, very difficult learning my brand new job in this type of environment and make some type of connection with my co-workers. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of that ‘mentoring by osmosis’. I’m a front office worker, so honestly a lot of that training just comes from overhearing your coworker on the phone or how a staff member answers a question. We’ll be returning soon and about half of the staff will be returning. Everyone’s been given some level of flexibility based on their role. There is plenty of work that I do I will happily love to continue to do without interruption at home and I absolutely support people who want to be full time remote. But just from my experience as a newbie to a job when this all happened, it was pretty stressful and difficult. It is absolutely valid to feel like this isn’t the right environment or situation for you. Having some low-stakes optional virtual coffee hour every other week is helpful or some type of optional game. I’ve also found some of those ‘study with me’ videos on YouTube to be helpful to play in the background. But I absolutely get it, it can be lonely and isolating. We’ve also been very isolated from others in general so maybe as you can do more with some friends or family, it might be helpful. I wish you the very best and hope you can find something that works best for you!

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. I am now full time WFH. When I joined my organization my team was virtual, but I went into the office everyday and was assisted by other people in the office even if we didn’t actually work together. I started off no WFH, moved to 1 and then 2 days WFH, and then I moved far away from the office and went full time WFH over the course of about 5 years.

      It is my first WFH, but I can’t imagine figuring things out and getting settled in my brand new job from my home. Who do you know to ask for help? I’d imagine just sitting there wondering what to do.

      But I do supposed if a organization starts new employees as WFH from the start, they should have processes to support these people when they start an integrate them into the office.

    2. allathian*

      Oh, definitely. I’m glad I haven’t had to start a new job during the mandatory WFH period. WFH has gone very well for me, partly because I know most of my teammates from the time when I worked at the office most of the time. I don’t work very close with the couple new people we’ve onboarded, but I’ve had 1:1s with them just to get to know them.

  39. we named the dog Indiana*

    I’ve found WFH difficult as well, not from a social aspect (although there is some of that), but more from a work aspect. I work in-house legal, and the ability to have another attorney take a quick look at a clause I’m negotiating and give feedback/advice is huge. And it’s more likely to happen in a casual, office environment than if I have to schedule a call. Feeling out of the loop has also been a huge disadvantage in my line of work; it’s not always obvious to others when legal should be consulted, and it’s much easier to have casual conversations with managers in the cafeteria to find out what’s going on and if I should get involved. From the outside, yes, all my work can be done remotely and has been getting done over the last year, but is it the best it could be? Time will tell.

  40. lizcase*

    I have probably the best WFH setup I could ask for – husband is in the basement office, I’m in the second floor spare room with a sit/stand desk and a window. Work sent me a brand-new laptop and monitor setup when I started 6 mos. ago, which is fantastic. My daughter has her own room for school stuff, and my husband works part-time with no real fixed hours, and so can help her throughout the day. My office uses Teams for collaboration – there are spontaneous chats (either IM or phone) and I have one-0n-ones with my manager regularly. I have time to do deep concentration work. I have some days full of meetings but no one requires video. My company has been nothing but supportive through-out the pandemic, and when we’re back in the office, we can choose to have 2 days at home.

    I still HATE it. I miss the commute (biking or bus/train and walking – I very purposely chose where I’m living to allow me to commute without a car). I miss having all my work stuff at work. I miss kitchen chats. I miss the noise around me — it is surprisingly difficult for me to concentrate without ambient noise, and I haven’t found an app that works for me. I miss having lunch with colleagues. I miss leaving work at work – having the 20-30 min to clear my head completely. I have no idea what it will be like working in this office, but I miss it all the same.

    1. TIRED*

      For the ambient noise, try coffitivity…. there are also some good videos on youtube that might work for you. I’ve had success with a mixture of these. And if anyone like some music with a little bit of movement, I’ve liked chillhop on youtube. There’s a video of an animal walking around and the visual is just enough to feel “active” without being obtrusive.

  41. MissDisplaced*

    “I suspect my office will have a really flexible work-from-home policy and I may be one of a handful of people who end up going into the office regularly. I suspect that when I do go in, I’ll be one of two people in the office.”

    I don’t see what’s wrong with this? If you want to go in, go in! If you want to schedule some “all hands” meetings, say on a particular day, have people come in that day to meet. You have valid reasons about not wanting to continue WFH, but you know others have just as valid reasons about wanting to continue WFH.

    Offices are now for MEETING with people, but not for WORKING.

    1. Alex*

      The problem is that all the things “return to office” people want only work when everyone else (or at least most people) also return to the office, because if 90% stay wfh, meetings are still going to be virtual, there will be no popping in to their office, there will be no water cooler talk or lunch meetings at the cafeteria – they will just “work from home”, but from the office (using the same zoom/teams/webex tools as before) – and that won’t make them any happier .

      1. Alex*

        To add: this goes for the social aspect of it of course, not the “I actually have a real desk/AC/can leave my work stuff behind when I leave” faction.

  42. Failed Manager*

    Hi one of things that I hate working fully remote is that I have a couple of coworkers in the office and I feel left out. They kinda act like a clique. I know this could happen in any environment. I am trying to figure out when I should go in. I live far from the office so just showing up when others are not there is kind of frustrating.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Have they been in the office all through the Pandemic? If so, I can see why they formed a clique. It was super hard for those who had no WFH choice because of the nature of their work. But you should try to make an effort and go in sometimes.

  43. mediamaven*

    I know this won’t be a popular comment but I’ve started to notice a few things as the world starts to normalize. Several of my employees are requesting to come back to work and are coming in by choice. They feel that isolation is causing them to miss out on critical relationships and learnings that happen when we are all together. The people who consistently push back on coming in are also the ones who seems less interested in career success and producing good work. The ones coming in are hungry to succeed. Not saying that is the same in every company but for us, it’s definitely fact for us. I’m looking forward to being stronger back in the office part time!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      My guess is the ones pushing back and wanting to continue to WFH are also older, right? As in, they have kids and other commitments and have reached a point in their career where they are happy, because there is more to life then moving up the capitalist ladder.

      Mostly, it’s the younger Gen Y and Gen Z workers who want that socialization of the office because they never had it, or not much of it. They are also the ones least likely to have ideal WFH spaces, such as their own house or home office. Go figure!

      1. mediamaven*

        No – none have kids and all of our staff is on the younger side but the ones eager to come in are certainly the youngest. But they are also producing the best work!

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      – management is vocal and clear about believing that working physically in the office = career success.
      – people who decided they want to move up the career ladder *at this specific company* are requesting *this specific management* to let them come back into the office, saying all the right words about why they want to come back into the office.
      What a coincidence!

      1. mediamaven*

        I think we need to really stop with the narrative that any employer who values face time with employee is a dinosaur with antiquated work perceptions. Every business is different.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oh I agree, which is why I never said anything like it.

          It’s your and the rest of your company’s management’s right to prioritize physically being in the office, and to make moving up at your company easier for those who are physically in the office. It is also your employees’ right to check out and go, “well time to start looking/I’ll work on my career at my next job” if they feel they are not as productive being in the office fulltime as they are when they are remote. And it is also your employees’ right to choose to come back into the office fulltime because they know that management loves it and promotes people based on that, and they like working at your company and want a promotion. Everyone wins. No one is (checks notes) “less interested in career success and producing good work”.

          1. mediamaven*

            I almost agree with everything that you said but your last sentence is not accurate. Not everyone wants to work from home because they feel that they are more productive at home. Many people want to work from home because they can be less productive – I’ve seen it first hand so don’t suggest I’m wrong. It’s been a struggle which is why many employers are trying to get people to come back – not just because they feel like micromanaging.

            1. allathian*

              I’m not suggesting you’re wrong, but it’s also not the whole truth. Many people hate office politics with the passion of a thousand suns and couldn’t care less about being promoted or getting raises, as long as they aren’t fired for doing a subpar job. They’re the ones who’d rather sacrifice face time with the manager for being allowed to work from home, because they work to live and don’t live to work. And media is one of those passion fields that look glamorous on the outside but are mostly poorly paid (unless you’re a media celebrity) with awful working hours and non-existent work/life balance, at least if you work in a newsroom.

              1. allathian*

                Oh, and I’m wondering if those less productive team members have other issues that affect them, such as caring for a family member in the same household, whether that’s children, a disabled spouse, or a parent or in-law? It’s possible that they’re unwilling to return to the office at least partly because making alternative arrangements for care takes time and effort?

                1. mediamaven*

                  I’m not referring to those people though – I’m referring to the ones who are not meeting the basic needs of the job.

    3. nothing rhymes with purple*

      Being disabled and thus finding WFH much more manageable is certainly a choice and absolutely a decision to not pursue career success.

    4. Tired*

      Yeah, I’m going to call a very polite “nonsense!” on that comment. That is an extremely naive, and very dangerous, perception to have of your team. Just because people want to work in the office, or at home, doesn’t mean anything regarding their work ethic, their ambition, their dedication, or anything else you appear be to be attaching it to.

      1. mediamaven*

        Doesn’t always but it can and it’s ignorant to suggest otherwise. I currently have a manager who insisted it was paramount that she work from home and now I understand why – she’s produced nothing, disappears during the day and doesn’t respond to very basic communication. There are many reasons that people want to work from home – one of them is the ability to get away with doing other things.

        1. Tired*

          I admit I’m confused by your reply: plenty of people “get away with” doing literally nothing in the office, particularly those at management level. People don’t have to be working remotely in order to do absolutely nothing productive. Plenty of people are very skilled at “looking busy”.

  44. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I despise doing my job from home. I have worked as a carpenter in the past and effectively was “wfh”, but, that was in the shop that was outside the house and across the drive or out at a client’s place.

    I have always worked best with a hard, bright line between Work and Not Work.

    Additionally, my work is collaborative. I have long been accoustomed to having group meetings with some call-ins. But, this?? This sh!t where someone is “sharing” a desktop with a 24×36 pdf not zoomed in because they have 3 big screens and I can’t zoom in on the Skype or Teams or GoToMeeting or GoogleMeet? Argh.

    And where the bandwidth somewhere is not quite enough. And someone keeps unmuting themselves. And where no one can see body language. How do ASL speakers have meetings in this pandemonium?

    To all you “I’m responsive on Slack” people, for me it is a lot easier to shut off all electronic notifications to get work done because every time I see an IM or envelope pop up my blood pressure surges. Seeing someone walk by my desk and look enquiringly at me and me hold up fingers to say “gimme 5” or to shake my head vigorously and mouth “I’ll call” is faaaaaaaaar easier for me. And, plus, the most responsive people in my group seem to be the ones pulled in too many directions.

    Plus, I’ve WASTED so much time learning others’ preferred sketching and share platforms so we can do calls with talking drawings while my wrists hurt and my hand is cramping and all I want is the back of some scratch paper and us pushing it back and forth across a table to figure out how to solve a problem.

    Ever since I realized that while the office was “closed” is wasn’t actually CLOSED, I’ve worked from a desk with a nice fat data pipe and 3 screens and no cats walking across me and no home projects nagging me. It made the Teams/Skype/etc easier to deal with cause then at least I knew the dropping problems weren’t on my end. 3 weeks ago, a guy from a different department w/ whom I’ve been working on multiple tasks since October was in the office for the first time in months. We had never met in person. We also had always just been putting out fires. We had an incredibly productive and PLEASANT 45 minute meeting where we did, indeed, draw sketches at each other. Also, we drafted 2 different versions of a table. By hand. It was so fast!! And not frustrating!! And we got to see each other’s body language!!

    I had to give a presentation with GoToWebinar. It is always useful to acquire a new skill and it is nice to open the continuing education lecture to people outside the local geography, but, I don’t get to see the audience and there is no networking coffee and no chance for random encounters. It is supremely weird.

    I get the loss of “learning by osmosis” and the random brainstorming that could happen. I changed firms during this pandora and NEED to know who knows what. In order to do this, I am still, months later, scheduling calls to have a chat and get to know people and their skill sets. The scheduling people don’t know the details of who knows what particular engineering parameter’s use at the level I need. Plus, that means I’m constantly asking them and clogging THEIR pipeline.

    The people I know in my line of work mostly don’t come in due to long commutes and child or elder care issues. A minority just hate working in the office. It would be nice if we all had flexibility. It would be nice if people could have homes they liked that were also in town. It would be nice if we weren’t all left on our own to figure out how to best help anyone in our home circles.

    I don’t rely on work for human interaction, but, f2f frequently is a lot better for me and my tasks when I need input. I need quiet time to concentrate and I need interaction without the sludge of tech interfering.

    1. AJR*

      I’m clapping here about your description of the in-person meeting. A few weeks ago, I recently had my first in-person meeting in about a year (first since I started this job) and it was just… ahhh. SO much better, WAY easier to develop ideas. Body language is such a crucial extra dimension of communication.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*


        I left that meeting feeling exhilarated. I almost leave an online meeting just with a sense of relief.

      2. Alex*

        Interesting. I had the exact opposite experience with my first in person meeting after a year or so – it was very awkward, quite unproductive (can’t work on actual tasks while sitting through a part I’m not needed for), and also having to focus on a wall mounted screen from every seat compared to a screen I have for myself was.. uncomfortable.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          That sounds like a very poorly planned meeting.

          Yeah, I don’t miss meetings like that at all.

          Even in person, tho’, it was and can still be possible to excuse oneself after one’s contribution with the old “I’m so sorry, I have another call/meeting/conflict to attend, is there anything else for me?” And then book it!!

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I presented at a couple of technical conferences during the pandemic, and gave a couple of lightning talks at local meetups. It is definitely weird not to be able to see the audience and tailor your presentation style to their reactions, and pre/post Zoom chats are definitely not the same as the coffee-and-networking (aka, the “hallway track”).

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Yes!! I miss it. So-called networking chats on line are painful. So much less free flowing, no chance to be talking one on one with the person next to you while someone else is talking. Breakout “rooms” put too much weight on the interaction.

    3. sofar*

      Your post made me laugh so hard.

      We do a lot of production of “instructional, expert” videos where our video team “interviews” people from the company, including me about our specialties. And then we put them on YouTube, in blogs, etc. Before the pandemic, we had a studio to record these things in.

      Now, if another video person asks me if I have “another background” I can use or asks me to pick up my computer and move around to find better lighting I WILL scream. Like, guys, I live in an open-concept home. I have ONE wall. It has an outlet on it. Your only other options involve a shelf with alcohol or the wall with my TV on it. Or I use a fake background (which you also don’t like). But god FORBID I zip into the office and use the studio, even though I’m vaccinated now. My company doesn’t even want to think about return-to-office.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Oh gawd. The background.

        *grits teeth*

        Another problem with my desk at home is the wall behind me. When I have guests in my home, first, they probably already kinda know me and wouldn’t be shocked, or, at least, they are in a position to ask about the War Carpet and we can talk about it and I can tell them how I got it.

        Engineering is very international and diverse and there are a lot of immigrants in my particular subfield, some who have been refugees or dissidents at some point. I quickly learned how to have a fake background even though that edge rendering stuff triggers all kinds of uncomfortable neurons in my brain after the first time someone on a group call with half a dozen people when someone said “is that an airplane behind your head?” and another said “Oh. My. How did you come to have a War Carpet?” and I looked at his name and realized he was probably Pashtun.

        Fortunately, this was not the first time we had all met each other and we had time for us to have that talk.

        Going to the office means I get to not force other people to deal with the fake background with pixels jumping around my face or see a 20th century equivalent of the Bayeaux tapestry.

        1. sofar*

          Wow. That beats my coworker who has his entire doll collection behind him during calls. The dolls are cool and all, but so distracting. Everyone wants to talk about the dolls. Even a year later.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            Yeah, I don’t like distracting backgrounds. I also don’t want to risk setting someone’s bad memories off. It *is* weird that I essentially have a war memorial on my wall at home.

            I did put a sheet over it for a while until I got the background to work well (it didn’t initially, reasons unknown), but, the sheet kept slipping and looking really messy.

            One higher up had set his camera up in front of a rather fancy looking fireplace in an obviously expensive old suburban colonial home. That was so unnecessary. I was surprised a maid never appeared in frame to hand him his drink.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Remote has its advantages, too.

      In the office, a two-faced coworker can track me down, corner me in my workspace for a conversation that I know is a bad idea, then misrepresent what I told you later and it boils down to he-said-she-said.

      When I’m 500 mi away, I can block the two-faced coworker’s phone number, ignore their IMs and emails, and literally force the two-faced coworker to use the tracked ticketing system, where everything is recorded in beautiful monochrome.

      Purely hypothetical. It didn’t happen thrice in 2018 during the 5 weeks I had to spend onsite that year, with the same two-faced coworker, who’d done it enough times that he didn’t even bother trying to avoid witnesses any more. Totally hypothetical.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I am so sorry you have had that. Blocking can absolutely be Self Care!!

        Management has issues when sh!t like that can happen.

        I’m sure you weren’t the only person that was happening to and those people don’t deserve any human contact.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I appreciate your condolences. Thankfully, that’s the only person I’ve had to deal with that specific sociopathy.

  45. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I swear, my forehead is going to get a divot in it. The LW is saying that SHE is struggling working from home, and that is every bit as valid as those who struggled going into the office, or those who want to wfh forever. The jumping on, the implication that she is an annoying, in-your-face jackhole simply because she prefers to interact in person is making my head spin. She sounds like a person who… has a preference.

    I agree that no one should get all of their social needs met at work, but really, she’s not asking for that. She likes being around people. She prefers face-to-face interaction. She is not a monster because she feels that way. And she is not alone, and it’s really sad that some here are making her out to be a terrible, insensitive human.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s like 3 people though; the majority of commenters on this post are actually saying they identify more with the letter writer.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m seeing more than that, but regardless, it’s so completely unfair and even unwarranted. People are allowed to feel differently than the LW and to disagree, absolutely, but there is enough “we’re right and you’re a terrible person” coming across here that it’s really frustrating and definitely not helpful for the LW.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          After I read this reply, I just went through every comment to count — not to argue it with you but because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t off-base (both here and generally when my sense is something is only a small number of people) … and it’s one person (Rayreign). Literally one! Their comment was the second one in the thread though, so I suspect it set the tone and made it feel like more than one. I’ve moved it further down the page to hopefully counter that.

          1. EchoGirl*

            I think you’re right as far as people attacking OP or saying OP is a bad person, but then there’s the (more than a few) comments that are still kind of implying that there’s something wrong with OP that’s creating this problem, like all the people jumping to the assumption OP is trying to get all their social needs met at work — it’s not on the same level, granted, but there’s still kind of an undertone of judgment based on something that OP hasn’t even confirmed is a factor.

    2. Reba*

      Thank you for this! I also don’t like seeing people take their grumps out on the LW.

      I relate to a lot of what she wrote. Although I like working from home in general and I’m fortunate to have a nice, comfortable setup, I miss the office. In my job, my time is split between solo work and intensely collaborative work, and the latter is especially challenging because–as full WFH has revealed brutally–we historically relied a lot on informal communication, brainstorming, and collective knowledge gathered from this and that person. Spontaneity was a big feature. Now, we definitely could systematize things better (and we have spent a lot of time talking about how). But it’s also ok for us to *like* getting information from coworkers through face-to-face interactions.

      I also… like being around other people some of the time and working on things together. And I’m not annoying, dangit!

    3. allabee*

      Right? I agree with Alison that it’s like 3 people coming after the OP for her preference, but man, those people are coming in HOT with the idea that people have preferences “at” them. De-centering yourself pays dividends!

    4. cubone*

      Other than the one downright rude comment…. am I missing these other comments? I’m seeing a lot of comments (mine included, and I’m now a bit worried/confused if mine are being perceived as one of these 3 “taking their grumps out”?) that I think are trying to acknowledge the challenge of WFH vs in-office as being one of preference. And that there are many preferences, and that it is super challenging to navigate and there are no right answers. If this is one of those commenting sections of “only people who have the same experience should engage” (which I completely support and think are important!), that’d be one thing, but it definitely feels like the vast majority of comments feel the same, and I’m struggling to see the ones that are making the LW out to be terrible and insensitive (other than the one obvious one).

      Some of the comments (like TopToast’s /even mine) that are acknowledging “how you feel is how some people felt in the office” seem to be written very sensitively to the LW (I tried at least with mine, and felt about as far as possible from “LW is a monster” – my gosh) and careful not to overstate that preferences are just that – preferences – while also acknowledging how challenging and unique this situation is. Which is ……….. also a pretty significant element of Alison’s response, no?

      I took a lot of perspective and insight from the LW about how it feels for those who are really struggling with WFH. I don’t know that every comment trying to do something similar (but from a different angle) is mean-spirited or ill-intentioned or out of place.

    5. old biddy*

      Agreed! Why is it so hard to accept that some people like working from home, some don’t, and some like it part of the time? At the same time, some people are more productive, some have the same level, and some are less productive. Some people are introverts, some ambiverts and some extroverts. There is no automatic correlation between any of these three sets of traits.

  46. cactus lady*

    OP, from your letter it sounds like you were getting a lot of your social fulfillment from work. Does that have to be true? Have you considered expanding your social circle outside of the office, starting a new hobby, trying something new, now that things are opening up again? If you decide that WFH/hybrid really isn’t for you, at least this could get you through until you find something that is full time in the office. However I do see the pandemic as having shifted the role of the office in a lot of people’s minds (certainly in mine) to not being the main way we socialize.

  47. mojujozo*

    I’m on a five-person team (not including the manager). Every other week, I have a standing one on one with my manager. Every week I have standing one on ones with two of my team mates. In addition, I set up a bi-weekly meeting of just the five team members. Ostensibly the purpose is to discuss upcoming work, but it’s also a chance for more candid discussions both personal & professional. Today we discussed taking vacations this year & also whether we needed help. We don’t always take extra time to check in with each other but this week we did.

    Anyway this has helped me with the isolation. Not sure if any of this will be useful to you.

  48. Wolfie*

    OP, this could’ve been me writing the letter! I feel you completely. I hated working from home (I live alone), and I felt isolated and missed the camaraderie and solidarity of my co-workers. I actually went back to the office in April, but I was the only one. My company announced last week that they’re closing our office’s location in two weeks, so I now have to work from home permanently! I have looked into a co-working office, and they have a dedicated desk for $400/month, but I don’t know if my employer will pay for it. I have also considered moving to the main US office, which is in California, but I’m in the Midwest, and I’m not sure if I want to make that move.

    I agree with Alison, unfortunately, that if the culture of your job changed, you might have to find a new one. I am going through the same thought process.

    Anyway, hang in there! I’m sorry you’re going through this, but you’re definitely not alone!

  49. AJR*

    Hello LW, just wanted you to know that you aren’t alone. I loathed WFH, and it was so difficult to execute the more intangible elements of my job duties with it – I need to have broad situational awareness across and outside of our organization to do my job well, and the ability to form strong relationships diagonally across our org chart, and there was flat-out no way to accomplish this through Teams. Plus, it made me depressed.

    I was lucky to change jobs last year from a job where I was genuinely constantly alone for days and weeks at a time (whether at home or in the office) to a job where I have frequent interaction with others during Teams meetings, but the new job was WFH from the start till about three weeks ago. I hated working from home so much. Part of it was that I hated constantly being alone, which has never been the way I’ve ever worked best, and part of it was that key elements of my job that required collaboration and sensitive, delicate forms of communication were flat-out impossible over Teams.

    Here’s a short list of the things I tried to stop feeling depressed, flat, unproductive, anxious, and unable to engage with my work:
    * joined a sports team
    * took up yoga 2x a week
    * saw a counselor and tried medication
    * worked in public places like coffee shops
    * maxed out seeing friends as much as possible outside of the work day
    * moved back in with my parents for weeks at a time
    * meditated
    Here’s the long and short of it: none of this worked. To the extent any of it was effective, it was extremely marginal. I constantly felt awful, like I was trapped, and could not concentrate on my job. The only thing that worked for me even a little was coming back into the office full-time. I’m not the same person I was before the pandemic, but the ability to come in has helped tremendously to put me back on that path. It’s like 40% of my brain has been unlocked. The ability to geographically separate my home and my work is a game-changer – I can take a breath when I cross the threshold of my home.

    I’ve been back for about three weeks now, and I see several coworkers here (most people are on a flexible hybrid schedule). I’m able to have the kinds of conversations I need to have to glean the situational-awareness-type information I need for my job, build relationships, learn, care about the future. I wish you a lot of luck – if you find a way to come back into an office I think you will be able to start to feel like yourself again.

    1. AJR*

      To add one more thing: I was looking into the possibility of using a co-working space right at the time when I got the greenlight to come back in, so I did not wind up doing that (in any case, the options seemed kind of pricey, and would not have been reimbursable by my organization). While I think that might have helped, I’ve found that there’s also a real benefit from seeing people in my own organization face-to-face, so please don’t feel discouraged if the co-working option doesn’t seem to cure the problem 100%.

    2. Flower necklace*

      I’m a teacher. Last year was just awful, but it got better once we went back and I could see people in person again. Being able to chat with my coworkers face-to-face made a real difference for all the reasons you cited. No one in my department has their own classroom, and I learn so much about what’s going on through casual conversations in our department room.

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      I had the same experience. Going back to the office was like waking up after sleepwalking for a year.

  50. Temperance*

    OP, you’ve received a lot of advice on the other pieces, but speaking as an introvert: putting cameras on can be exhausting. Moreso than in person interactions.

    I also can’t speak for ALL other women, but many of us have enjoyed the break from makeup and hair.

  51. Me*

    There’s a lot of suggestions fro the OP on how to maybe make WFH more bearable to them. So I want to focus more on how they are feeling/deciding.

    Things are in a state of flux right now. Your office may decide to stay fully remote or they may come up with some other option. You are fully allowed to share your professional thoughts on how being in office benefits you and your work to your manager. It’s not going to ruin it for “everyone” and your position on WFH/WFO is just as valid as your peers.

    And you don’t have to decide stay or go now. You can give yourself x amount of weeks/months to see how it shakes out. Or you can start putting feelers out, brushing up the resume, etc if it makes you feel more in control of a situation that’s out of your control (ie what your work decides).

    Uncertainty can amplify our feelings about things so sometimes recognizing that and brainstorming ways to take some control and ownership of things can help. Even if the only decision is I’m going to reevaluate the situation in 3 weeks.

    1. Wolfie*

      “Even if the only decision is I’m going to reevaluate the situation in 3 weeks.”

      Oh man! I might tape this to my wall.

  52. Ms.Vader*

    I thought I was a people person until I worked from home and enjoyed a 5 minute commute more haha.

    I feel the isolation you’re experiencing and I am so sorry. I think that if you were to maybe arrange some kind of group get together outside of work with people in your neighbourhood (like an exercise class, sport, outing etc if that’s safe in your community), you may feel better with the working from home because you’re getting interaction outside of work. Right now I get the sense you aren’t really going out at all.

    Our work has weekly huddles where we all meet on Teams and we just chat for 30 minutes. Perhaps that would help.

    But I’d be very cautious of pushing for a return to office for all employees because that will create a lot of resentment and you’ll end up feeling isolated at the office too. I honestly feel that it may be a good time to look for a different job.

  53. e271828*

    OP writes, “Pre-pandemic we were problem solvers and there’s an important aspect of our work that happens when someone walks into your office and spontaneously asks if you can talk through a problem with them That’s completely evaporated since we’ve been working from home.”

    If this is an important part of the organization’s procedures, then management should want to restore it. Productive impromptu, casual collaboration is difficult to induce and very valuable for innovative and problem-solving environments.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Sometimes management is Management and has come from a biz or finance background but the problem solvers are collaborative and Management doesn’t actually know how the problem solvers do their job, tho’.

      Or, the people making the decision don’t ask the people doing the work how it is going. (This also leads to people being forced in when they don’t need to be.)

  54. Jennifer Strange*

    OP, I’m really sorry that you’re having a hard time with this right now. That said, I would encourage you to realize that different people have different perspectives on what work flow is most beneficial for them.

    You say “we were problem solvers and there’s an important aspect of our work that happens when someone walks into your office and spontaneously asks if you can talk through a problem with them” but it’s possible that approach didn’t work as well for your co-workers as you think. For me, I’m going to be much more productive/successful in working through a problem if you email me rather than just trying to initiate a conversation. For me this is because I’m usually working on something else at the time, and it can a take a while for me to move my attention from that to the issue you’ve got. Plus, I find it better to be able to think through (and in some cases research/look into) the problem rather than just spitball ideas in the moment, that way I can approach the issue with the most clarity and have greater insight to all of the nuances that might be at play. As Alison says in her response, neither of us is right or wrong, it’s just different perspectives and differences in how we best work.

    If there is an issue with co-workers not getting back to you in a timely manner, thus messing up your timeline, then that’s absolutely something that should be brought to your manager’s attention so that you can figure out a more efficient way of communicating, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the issue. And from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I agree with your management: if the work is getting done, why should they intervene? I understand that from a more emotional (for lack of a better word) standpoint you feel like they’ve eliminated a part of the job you really like, but at the end of the day (and I don’t mean this unkindly!) that’s really only your problem. It sucks, I get it! But if the new set up is working for the majority of the employees, there isn’t a reason for them to change it.

    I say see what happens once people are allowed to return to the office. You may be surprised at how many people do choose to return (even if only 2-3 days a week rather than full time) and it may be that even a few days of that camaraderie will be beneficial for you. But if that doesn’t happen, you’ll have to decide whether or not it’s worth looking elsewhere. Jobs just change sometimes, and it’s okay to realize it’s no longer a good fit for you.

  55. Nora*

    I feel the same as OP, from my tiny apartment in a big city, and it’s a little annoying to see so many offering advice on how to force oneself to enjoy teleworking instead of answering the OP’s actual questions:

    “How do I communicate this without sounding like the person who wants to ruin everyone’s work-from-home fun?”
    What has worked for me is, whenever there’s a conversation about possible reopening of the office or permanent work from home, say something like “I hope we can have a hybrid office so that everyone can work in whatever way works best for them.” The emphasis doesn’t need to be on either side of the debate but rather on the fact that different people have different styles, and mandating one or the other is not going to work for some segment of people.

    “Or am I just stuck and have to accept it and maybe find a new job?”
    There’s a good chance that you might have to find a new job, but that doesn’t mean you should be silent! If you feel strongly enough about this to leave, then it’s worth mentioning it. Maybe 15% of people in your office don’t want to work from home and you could be the one person who tips the scales. Or at the very least management can’t say they had no idea you were unhappy when you put in your notice.

  56. yllis*

    I too hate WFH. When we went back to the office last July, my hand was the first up. But it’s not for the socializing, which is good because sometimes it is only 2 of us in the dept in office.

    It’s more because, I dont like that when I get out of bed….BAM my work is there waiting for me. I need that dividing line of a commute. And now that the gym opened up, the ritual of working out, shower, commute, deep breath and THEN work.

    Something about closing and locking my office door at the end of the day just feels _right_ and says “work is over now. You can go to your home life now”. Working from home, it was like the laptop was always there….looking at me and reminding me that work is always there.

    However my husband loves it. he’s been WFH for over a year now. Different strokes

    1. Erin*

      This. This is it. This is the thing.

      I had a band move into the apartment next door. I couldn’t work at my kitchen table anymore because of the noise. My apartment management did a trash job of addressing the noise with the tenant. I moved my desk and everything into my bedroom. I basically lived in my bedroom for months. I’d wake up, and the first thing in my face was my work to-do list. I’d work in the corner of my bedroom every day, then watch TV and sleep in my bedroom at night. Essentially living in one room for months at a time was maddening.

  57. Chc34*

    I thought I would never, ever be the type of person who wanted to work from home: but then, well, after I had to, I found that the tradeoffs are actually worth it for me. I too got a great deal of social energy from being in the office, around other people, and I couldn’t imagine how lonely it would be to not have that, but I have actually missed it less than I thought I would. And for me, being remote means that I can work in an industry that doesn’t exist in my current city, and the tradeoff of having to find a different job isn’t worth what I would get from being in-person.

    I do miss being in an office, though, and have been thinking of trying to find a coworking space.. And for all the vocal extremes of “I am so glad I don’t have to interact with any coworkers in-person,” I would say there’s a lot more people like me who do indeed miss it: just, well, not enough to go back.

    1. llamaswithouthats*

      I’m in this boat as well. I prefer WFH because I’m more productive, not because I hate my coworkers! I really like them, but like you said, it’s not a huge sacrifice to give up my interactions with them.

  58. RB*

    I could have written this exact letter and have been thinking these exact same thoughts. I have a house rather than an apartment but that hasn’t made it any easier — it has just made for more distractions. I wish I could forward a link to this post to my manager but I’ve already complained to him a lot lately about this stuff and I don’t want to overdo it.

    Anyway, good to know I’m not alone in these sentiments. Thanks for that LW.

  59. Koala dreams*

    Mostly communicating through teams and having a long turn around on e-mails and phone calls sounds exhausting, even if you did like wfh. I notice that many of the commenters above who like wfh have those channels for quick questions, like Slack or IM. I definately think that it’s relevant to bring up that some things (give a couple of examples) need quick answers or collaborating. If your co-workers love teams, perhaps they would be open to Slack or Discord or something? You’d also want to ask your manager what you should do if you can’t get in touch with your co-workers. Is there a way to escalate things?

    Personally I think using teams without video is like the worst of both worlds, you have the bad sound quality and the confusing icons and don’t get the advantage of video and body language. It’s like the highest difficulty setting for communicating! (Ok, charades are worse, but that usually doesn’t happen in an office anyway)

    As for looking for a new job, you should ask your company what their timeline is for returning to in office or hybrid schedule. Hopefully you’ll get an answer that either re-assures you or makes it clear that you need to find a new job. You could also put your resume in order and start looking, making sure you have options. Good luck!

  60. ivy*

    Dear OP,
    you might not be the only one in your company who feels this way! But for many people, if you’re going into the office to see people, you want there to be people there – a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation…
    So when my office opened up for a limited number of staff each day (you have to register to come in), I announced to my team that I was going to work from the office once a week, ideally Tuesday. There’s now a small number of us who work from the office every/most Tuesday/s and it’s now expanding to Thursday as well. Knowing that someone else is there to have lunch/coffee etc seems to be motivating others to come in

  61. HiHello*

    It is so interesting to see that when someone post about how they want to WFH, others validate them. This OP, to me, seems to be getting a lot of hate. Some comments basically attack the OP, saying they must be the annoying coworker who has no people awareness. I think what the OP is trying to say that there has been a big generalizations, stating that EVERYONE prefers WFH. I hate it. Many of my coworkers hate it too. But I have coworkers who love it. Both opinions are valid. People are different and they want/need different things. It’s about companies adapting and offering more flexibility. Not about remaining permanently remote or permanently back in the office.

    1. llamaswithouthats*

      WFH has become such a controversial issue on this blog. I never would have thought 2 years ago!

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It is so interesting to see that when someone post about how they want to WFH, others validate them. This OP, to me, seems to be getting a lot of hate.

      It’s probably at least partially because my working from home doesn’t prevent you from going into the office, but most of the reasons we hear to go back to the office imply or assume that others will be forced to as well.

      I think you’d see a lot more hate of the WFH crowd if the stance were “You have to work from home because I prefer to work from home” and you do see a lot less hate towards “I want to return to the office even if it means I’m working there alone.”

      1. twocents*

        This. If LW wanted to go work in the office because her kitchen chair is uncomfortable or whatever, I think you’d get a very different tone. But her desire to be in the office requires other people to also go in.

        I personally think if you are a high performer you should get the choice on whether you work in the office or work from home. If I was forced to go into the office simply to be someone else’s social entertainment, I would despise that person.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          A lot of us don’t need coworkers to be “entertainment”. We actually worked in settings where f2f collaboration makes our jobs smoother and less stressful and we didn’t realize how much that was true until it was taken away from us.

          1. twocents*

            Even from OP’s description, management is seeing the work is done satisfactorily and she doesn’t have a job that requires group work. She just misses people, which I’m sympathetic to, but that’s not her coworkers’ problem to solve.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              I think you are misinterpreting. She doesn’t work on projects needing group meetings from the sound of it, but, does need to ask or answer things and collaborate. The dynamic of such a situation is totally different if via e-mail/messageing/etc.

              She doesn’t “just miss people”.

              1. HiHello*

                In my job, I can barely do anything without talking to other people. The amount of video calls and messaging back and forth billion times is driving me crazy. The dynamic IS completely different.

                1. pancakes*

                  That’s not every job, though. My job is nothing like that. Nearly all of my work is done independently, and the parts of it that require collaboration can be done perfectly well via email, chat, and the very occasional teleconference (once or twice a month, tops). I was working from home before the pandemic and certainly hope to continue.

            2. AnotherLibrarian*

              That’s not what I read in the letter. I read that the LW is missing the… I don’t even know the word… there is that thing that happens when you run into someone from a different department, chat for a minute about how the day is going, and realize you have an idea after that talk that never would have occurred to you without it. That can not be mimicked in a WFH environment, because you have no reason to talk that colleague except you were both waiting to the elevator on a Tuesday afternoon. Someone else can probably summarize that better, but until most of my colleagues were back in the office, I hadn’t realized how much I missed that. Whatever you call that.

              1. mediamaven*

                I think camaraderie is a good word. And I think once everyone starts getting in the office a littler more that fear and trepidation will start to wear off a little and people will feel like you!

              2. AJR*

                A very real phenomenon. During the first year or so on the job I happened to meet with someone in a different division on Teams briefly on a minor matter. When I met her in person for the first time last week, I realized that (a) she had exactly the knowledge, skill set, and creativity we direly needed on a couple of projects I’m working on; and (b) I was able to almost immediately build trust with her and glean a lot of information about how certain major organizational changes were received in different divisions. I could not get all of this in a Teams call, which I know for a fact because I *was* on a Teams call with her before. It took what was mostly a serendipitous waiting-for-the-elevator type encounter like you describe for this to become clear.

      2. biobotb*

        Well, if people insist on working from home, they *are* forcing their in-office colleagues to deal with WFH logistics they’d prefer to avoid. It’s weird that you’re positioning this as if only in-office workers place burdens on others; WFH workers do, too.

    3. mediamaven*

      I agree with you. It’s like everyone expects the universe to champion remote work even if they don’t want to and those who don’t are dysfunctional or they are the ones with the problem.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s certainly not the case in every instance, but I do think it’s a problem for people to feel uncomfortable in their own homes, whether because of mess that’s gotten out of hand, an insensitive partner or roommate who interrupts their work or keeps the TV on and blaring, no comfortable place to sit, etc. It has been really eye-opening for me to read so many comments on this site from people in unhappy living situations. To be clear these are not easy problems to resolve, and they’re not all problems that can be resolved by raising wages and/or employers providing desks and good chairs. It’s complicated.

        1. Tired*

          I have to say, I totally agree with what Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est* and twocents have been saying.

          But pancakes, you do make a good point: it is VERY complicated. Some people who would love working from home if their living situation were different in some way (such as not having roommates, having more space, not having kids underfoot who they also basically have to homeschool, etc) may also be begging to go back to the office.

          I know I’d probably be climbing the walls if my partner and I had to share the same workspace/office (due to lots of video conferences and calls for both of us, and the fact that they have a tendency to overlap), and we both acknowledge that we’re lucky enough to have just enough space that we can work in two separate rooms. But, at the same time, me returning to the office would not actually fix that problem as that same problem also used to frustrate me immensely in the office: all the noise and distractions. So I’d rather face the issue at home than I would at the office, which also sees me commuting for two hours a day.

  62. llamaswithouthats*

    Yeah, OP should try and find a more people-oriented job if at all possible.

    Tangential observation, but I wonder if one of the rising factors in people embracing WFH is the fact that people are becoming less interested in careers/career development? Like, people work to pay the bills, but I’m hearing that more people are becoming less interested in things like networking and mentoring, which is why working in an office doesn’t seem that beneficial anymore. (But if you are interested in those things, then I would say there are benefits to working in an office.)

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Tangential observation, but I wonder if one of the rising factors in people embracing WFH is the fact that people are becoming less interested in careers/career development? Like, people work to pay the bills, but I’m hearing that more people are becoming less interested in things like networking and mentoring, which is why working in an office doesn’t seem that beneficial anymore. (But if you are interested in those things, then I would say there are benefits to working in an office.)

      We’ve been thoroughly convinced we’re disposable, fungible, and our final service to our employer will be under the wheels of a bus. More than half of us have felt like captive targets for harassment or exploitation in a past office stint. I’d hardly say the reaction you’re describing is inappropriate.

      1. llamaswithouthats*

        I mean, I agree with you! I brought it up because I feel like this aspect has been left out of the conversation of for vs against WFH . It’s been mostly about which one is more productive for people, but no one has brought up that the reason some people like WFH is because someone just don’t give an F about things like “osmosis mentoring”. They want to be able to spend time with their family and friends while being able to pay the bills.

      2. Tired*

        We’ve been thoroughly convinced we’re disposable, fungible, and our final service to our employer will be under the wheels of a bus. More than half of us have felt like captive targets for harassment or exploitation in a past office stint. I’d hardly say the reaction you’re describing is inappropriate.

        I completely and utterly agree. Wholeheartedly. I already felt that way before the pandemic, and I very much doubt I am the only one who did.

    2. Tinker*

      I definitely see that thing about career development.

      For myself, I would say that I have gotten to the point of being not at all interested in bettering my position with regard to my current job, somewhat less interested in pursuing the type of career development pattern that I have historically tied myself to, and significantly more ambitious and open to a broader array of possibilities with regard to what I intend to do for a living. I’m looking at correcting issues that have impacted my flexibility — getting my life structured so that I can pivot better to cope with crises or take opportunities that present themselves — and am doing more work about how I see myself as a worker, how I describe myself, and how my paid employment relates to my self-image. It’s possible that I may end up being a full-time small business owner or that I may construct my employment from a patchwork of options that allow me to put more of my skills to economic use; it’s almost certain that I will change jobs roughly within the year and probably not to the same sort of position that I have now.

      A lot of this would look like “cares less about career development” and “cares less about productivity” from the perspective of my current employer. That’s not necessarily unfair, because in their perspective what matters about me is my functionality as a part of their system and I don’t necessarily fault them for prioritizing that and acting accordingly.

      However, if what you’re attempting to characterize is my overall character and nature rather than my function in one particular narrow area, it’s highly misleading to look at my arguably doing less in this one domain and a whole lot more work that is more valuable in five other ones and decide that overall as a person I must be trying to do fewer things that are of less value.

      It really frustrates me that there’s still a significant part of the dialogue that you see even here that frames this question primarily around “people who want to work and people who don’t” and around coercive solutions for this, after everything we’ve all seen over the past year and a half.

  63. knitcrazybooknut*

    I started a new job last June, in the pandemic. I’m supervising three people on a five person staff, and I knew that trying to develop relationships remotely would be a struggle. So I scheduled weekly “hang-out” chats to create time where we’re not trying to work or grill each other for information, just talking about the weekend, the weather, etc. I know that may not address everything, but perhaps it would help with some of the loneliness.

    If there’s someone in particular that you miss brainstorming with, maybe you could ask to set up a regular brainstorming session with them. Others might want to join, and you may start a new trend of comparing notes with others.

    I do sympathize. I’m sorry it’s not going well for you.

  64. Jammy*

    It feels like everything in the news/media/cultural talking points lately has been posed as black and white. Of course, there are legitimate issues that are indeed black and white, but not every single topic has such extremes with no room in the middle for any kind of scale. WFH vs. in-office is one such topic. There is no right or wrong answer in terms of which someone prefers (health policies aside). And people often don’t seem to realize some topics, like WFH, tend to fall very squarely in the realm of, “This is what we see as a presiding narrative, so no one has differing opinions.”

    You can be gung-ho on either end: you might be the social person who LOVES working in the office everyday for every reason or the person who feels equally the same about staying home. But then there are the people who kind of fall in the middle, who like aspects of both. Personally, I kind of fall somewhere in the middle (but closer to WFH). I love to wear comfy clothes, go barefoot, and have everything about my home with me when I work. But I also have a roommate and WFH means I have to set up shop at the dining room table or on my couch (which admittedly is a pretty good spot to work on writing projects) and am subjected to all the distractions that come along with that. And I miss collaborating and having impromptu meetings in the way you can only do in-person (Zoom is great but not the same). So hybrid is definitely my choice when it comes to work environments!

    I feel like it makes the world more interesting when we can hear all sides of a subject and appreciate them for what they are, an example of our diversity as humans, and not make the people who voice an opinion that differs from ours feel like they’re some kind of abnormality (or even terrible person, in some cases – “You want to take away my WFH privileges, RAWR!”).

  65. Aimee*

    I can see missing the camaraderie and the social aspect. I would had I ever had the chance to work from home…
    I wonder why OP hasn’t taken the opportunity to fill in the gaps left by the office? Picking up a new hobby, exploring different social groups…

    1. Pot O Gold*

      This response reads as being a bit flippant. Social groups are not easy to find, especially in the past year. A new hobby typically costs $$ the LW may not have to invest in it and also won’t address the collaboration and inability to get work done in a silo that the LW talks about.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      What social groups, everything was pretty much on a lockdown until literally this month?

      And like I already said elsewhere on the thread, I do not in the least blame OP for not wanting to work out of a cramped (and now likely overheated) apartment. And I am saying this as someone who loves WFH… But loved it much less when my workspace was an old kitchen table wedged behind the treadmill in the basement. (Back when I had three people living in my three-bedroom house.)

  66. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    When the team I am on began WFH with only 1 person choosing to remain in the office, i loved it. But I understand that some people can struggle with it and feel isolated. I made a point of reaching out to other team members and letting them know they could always call, video chat, or instant message me if they were going stir crazy or just need a wall to bounce ideas off of. I also made it a point to ask how they like to communicate. 1 girl loves IM. 2 prefer emails. 1 calls if she thinks its to involved to type out. I actually communicate with them more then when we all worked in a row. And the cameras off thing? I noticed that too. I am the only one who usually turns mine on. (grew up watching scifi shows so video chat is like Star Trek come to life for me) But I know some people leave theirs off due to technical bandwith issues, working in non work clothing issues, and just photo shy issues. So its kind of an to each their own situation.

  67. twocents*

    I mean this in the least aggressive way possible, but if my office was leaning toward allowing people to continue to work from home or work in the office as they wanted to, and someone made the business case that everyone should work in the office… that person would be the social pariah.

    I bring it up because Alison mentions making a business case, and I think you should really, really consider what your relationships will be like if you are the one who makes that business case successfully.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, anytime I hear a variation on “everyone should work in the office”, it reminds me of the old joke about three people stranded on a desert island, who eventually found the magic lamp and the genie appeared out of it saying “I’ll grant you each a wish”. First friend’s wish was to go home and poof, he disappeared.
      Second friend, same.
      The third guy goes, “it’s kind of lonely here without those two. Bring them back.”

      That said, my workplace asked for those who would like to go back into the office, to step forward and their wishes will be granted. For a large company, that might end up being an office building full of people!

  68. Erin*

    I’m with you, OP. I’m an introvert who lives alone, and I hate working from home. My concentration is much worse, when I’m at home. I’ve started going back into the office 4 days a week. I’m the only one there. I’ve told others that they do not need to feel obligated to follow me into the office. I just mentally needed to separate where I work from where I relax and unwind from the day. It has helped with my concentration and kept me from feeling like I’m stuck in a box. It can still be isolating, because you don’t encounter nearly as many people as you would pre-COVID, when you’re out and about. I’m wondering how much longer we’ll actually keep our office suite, because it’s not worthwhile to continue to pay for an office, when only one person regularly goes into the office. I write all of this to say that you’re not alone. It’s a privilege to be able to work from home, and I wish I was 100% comfortable with it, but I’m just not. I have friends who are in the opposite situation – they have to come into the office now, but they’d like to stay home with their children and save on commuting expenses, meals, daycare, etc.

    1. allathian*

      People have different reasons for feeling that they’d be better off working at the office. Because you’re fine with being the only one in the building, your preference is just a preference. But with the LW, her preference for in-person collaboration requires others to also come in. Many employers would be happy to cater to that by asking everyone to return to the office, but it seems like the LW is an outlier in this office and even management is in no hurry to return.

  69. Home Away from Work*

    I would not be so enamored with working from home if I were in a small apartment, if my spouse were not retired (so we’re not competing for bandwidth or space for conference calls), if I had kids at home, if I had school aged kids doing remote learning, if I had noisy pets, if I had slow internet, if I weren’t able to interact with my team frequently. It was difficult to start a new job from home, because I did miss the interaction and quick questions/answers and getting to know my teammates, not to mention the other people I need to interact with in the office.

    The best part: no commute. I am not looking forward to having to drive into the office every day.

  70. Pumpkin215*

    I can relate in a completely opposite way in that I hated going into the office! The commute was terrible, especially during the winter. I would sit in my car in the dark, crawling in traffic, to go home to a dark and cold house (I got there before my husband). I would turn on the lights and the heat and it took a while to feel “normal”. By the time dinner was done, I have very little time to myself.

    Being home, I have no one stopping by to bounce ideas off of me which means I’m not being interrupted. I’m able to stay focused and be productive. Once I learned that my company was brining us back full time to the office, I found a remote position with a different company. The idea of going back to my grey cubicle under the buzzing fluorescent lights and the constant “got a minute?” was giving me anxiety. I’m also a pretty social person! During the day I work and in the evenings, I socialize with friends. To me, the two are completely separate. I am friendly at work but those are not my friends.

    I think the LW is relying on work too much for the social aspect. I would encourage them to find a different outlet for that.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I don’t see any evidence that the LW is relying on work t0o much for the social aspect in their letter and I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that. I think LW misses the spontaneous aspects of collaboration and brainstorming. I think that’s a perfectly acceptable thing for them to miss. I miss it too. You don’t have to agree with the LW about the importance of that, but there’s no reason to assume the letter is relying on work too much for their social life.

  71. Nicki Name*

    OP, you asked about how to communicate your feelings without sounding like you want to ruin it for everyone else. I think this thread shows that some people aren’t willing to hear that what works for them doesn’t work for you.

    It sounds like your company has done what it can to accommodate your work style (manager checking in, office being available for those who want to go in). If you go back to the office and it turns out there are just a couple people there… at that point, the way to communicate that it doesn’t work for you is to find a job that does.

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus encouraging you to look for co-working offices, or even just a coffee shop you can work from, in the short term.

  72. Pot O Gold*

    I recently sent my boss a GIF of Ariel from The Little Mermaid singing “I want to be where the people are…”

    So, yes. Although I regularly work in my PJs, wakeup at 750 and walk downstairs at 800, switch laundry during my breaks, and take meetings with cats on my lap/desk–I desperately want to go back to work.

    1. Kaitydidd*

      Same. I get to go into the office a day a week soon, and I’m pumped. I hate how work and home have blended together, I’m lonely all day, I struggle to focus, and my work is suffering. I don’t necessarily want anyone else at the office with me, I just need the structure of leaving home and being at work to function anywhere close to my best.

  73. JillianNicola*

    Reading all of these comments about, how everyone is just SO BLESSED to not have to ever interact with a coworker or client ever again with WFH. Look I’m an introvert, I get it, I’m not saying you’re wrong. But I am going to point out that every single day, there are hundreds of stories in the news, on Twitter, etc how it seems like humans don’t understand how to interact with each other anymore. How they’re weird or unkind or downright aggressive. Guys – empathy and the ability to pleasantly interact with others is not an innate behavior, it’s learned. By doing things like … interacting with colleagues. Our innate behavior is horrific and self-centric, and we’re seeing that being played out in real time. I just read a story today about how some dude screamed at an elderly couple in a store and threatened to fight them outside because the man accidentally grazed him getting back into line. And the cashier said those types of interactions happened *every couple of days*. That’s not normal!! Are there other factors to this phenomenon? Of course. But isolation is a MAJOR one. And I really don’t believe a Slack channel actually makes up for it in any meaningful way.

    Continue to work from home and to advocate WFH if that’s important to you personally. But please don’t act like it is the only true way, and that anyone who hates it must be an annoying person, or sees their coworkers as their own personal dancing seals. I will continue to beat the drum that if it’s that important to you, it should be a conversation between you and your boss but NOT a national conversation. Collaboration is actually a super important skill for our species and we are losing the ability to do it properly.

    OP – I hear you. As many others have said, you may need to find a different job that aligns with what you need. Good luck out there.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      But I am going to point out that every single day, there are hundreds of stories in the news, on Twitter, etc how it seems like humans don’t understand how to interact with each other anymore.

      Folks may also want to remember that pandemic-work-from-home is not the same as work-from-home.

      Regular work-from-home could be in a coffee shop. It could involve talking the occasional walk to the store. We may be getting there in certain parts of the world now, but for the past year, nope.

      1. mediamaven*

        I disagree. Work from home is supposed to mean HOME – not anywhere. Companies interpret it differently.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Yup. To that point, pandemic-work-from-home employees might have different social expectations than normal-times work-from-homers whose lives weren’t disrupted and had other ways to get their social needs met.

        The other controversial part of this is that being good at maintaining team cohesion in a remote environment isn’t exactly the same as when you’re in person. If you’re weren’t hired at a predominantly remote org, you and your colleagues probably weren’t hired for those competencies, and that might explain a lot of why pandemic-era WFH has been weird for a lot of people.

        1. RagingADHD*

          No, it isn’t. It’s pointing out that, just as social isolation is causing the erosion of in-person social skills, isolation from colleagues is causing the erosion of in-person collaboration skills.

    2. RagingADHD*

      My main gig has always been remote and TBH, I sometimes wish I could get together with my colleagues every once in a while. There are plenty of times it would be soooo much easier to ask a really quick question or swap feedback in real time instead of waiting for asynchronous messages or trying to do a call that has to be scheduled in advance.

  74. Retired(but not really)*

    As someone whose current endeavor involves being onsite (inventory and shipping) but is also a fairly one person thing it has been ideal for me in many ways as I truly enjoy working by myself. However there are times when having someone else around for another pair of hands to hold a difficult box closed while I tape it, or to help move larger quantities of finished product from point A to point B and there’s nobody handy and it’s annoying!
    So I totally get what OP is saying. Also the added difficulty of her WFH setup truly does make it much better for her to be back in the office, even if only some of her coworkers are there any given day.
    Best wishes OP as things transition back to some approximation of normal.
    I hope your workplace “feels right” sooner rather than later!

  75. WorkerBee*

    Prior to the pandemic, I had what some considered a dream job with terrific colleagues and nice travel opportunities. Well, all of that went kaput once pandemic restrictions went into place. I missed working at the office and it became clear that things would never be the same. No one wanted to return to the office and I later learned, since leaving the job for other reasons, that even if we did return to the office, everyone would still be required to wear masks, stay six feet apart and basically avoid human contact as much as possible, even if vaccinated. So, I wouldn’t even have been allowed to sit with my favorite colleagues over coffee. I’m working from home for another organization now and we’ve also been told return with masks and limit contact. Based on this information, I think working from home, as isolating as it feels at times, is the better option. At least I wouldn’t have to wear a mask all day and stay away from people and who says you can’t meet your colleagues for coffee and lunch on your own time and dime?

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Six feet isn’t that far apart? I mean, my cubicle at my old firm was 8×8 so if someone was standing talking to me in the aisle outside it through the entranceway, they were 6 ft. away w/o even trying.

      And masks…are they really such a big deal? Anytime I’ve been in a hospital, the majority of people seem to either be wearing a mask, about to wear a mask or just were wearing a mask.

      Lots of friends have mentioned that wearing a mask has really, really cut down on their allergies! They’ve all said “it would be great if no one picks on me for continuing to wear one! I feel so much healthier!”

      I’ve been wearing one and going out and interacting with people and we are mostly just thrilled to be around each other.

  76. S.*

    In the long run, the job might no longer be the right fit for you. But assuming you need to stay with the job at least for now and can’t change your coworkers, I am wondering if you can try to get more social contact outside of work that might at least help you feel better and might partially/temporarily substitute for on-the-job social contact. For example: Can you periodically work from a coffee shop? Find a meetup group for remote workers? Or any sort of meetup group that would give you more social connections? Invite any friends who live or work near you to meet for lunch to have some human contact to break up a day of working alone? Make more social evening plans?

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I think you are missing the point. OP isn’t complaining about social contact, they are missing the collegiality at *work*. Having f2f contact at work isn’t like socializing with their personal friends. It is work-related. They feel *their job* isn’t being done as effectively w/o it, even though whatever metrics “management” uses seem to be being met.

  77. Aphrodite*

    You know, I just can’t be bothered to care much one way or the other. Both have pros and both have cons. I don’t care to expend my energy on something I cannot control. My preference, should I be asked, would be to work from home part of the week and work from the office part of the week. It wouldn’t matter to me if I worked five mornings one place and five afternoons at another, or if I did two full days at home and three full days at the office. I just find myself becoming more amazed at how divisive and even contentious this subject is becoming. And how tiring.

  78. Social Butterfly*

    I haven’t read all the comments, so I hope I’m not being redundant! I also thrive on the social part of the office. And I highly recommend deeply researching and finding a community-based co-working space.

    It can be tough to find (cause there are a lot of corporate-y WeWork-style spaces out there). But I found a co-working space in Chicago and it was absolutely amazing. It had all the benefits of workplace camaraderie without any of the potential office drama/burn out/gossip/venting spirals that can be damaging in a workplace, because my “co-workers” weren’t actually my co-workers. I actually found it more enjoyable than even the best office culture/situations I’ve been in. I had a close group of 7-10 “co-workers” that I would regularly have coffee breaks with, talk through work issues with (when appropriate), do focused work sprints with/happy hours/lunches. Tons of variety in the types of people, and types of work they were doing (which I loved). I actually found incredible value from some of their insights into my work. I know it’s not like that at every co-working space, and it has to be a place with a good community manager who really fosters that atmosphere… but if you can find it? It’s gold. Highly recommend.

  79. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    OP, I feel with you on this on some level. I’m not a very social person, but I like to collaborate. I used to wire for a company that was exclusively remote, but we interacted all the time by instant message and phone. My current job is much more solitary and isolated, and when I work from home, I often don’t interact with anyone all day. That can actually be good for some work, and I worked from home twice a week before the pandemic. But the pandemic led to more telework and it has made me feel rather isolated. I don’t hate it exactly, but I do feel the isolation. You aren’t alone!

    As for zoom meetings, sometimes it’s hard to see yourself on camera, sometimes running the camera slows down the feed and interferes, and for my current team, about half of us had no webcams until someone finally asked why they never used video! LOL

  80. ToodlesTeaTops*

    Gosh this comment section is off. OP (If you even read down this far), your feelings and wants are validated. There’s a lot of people missing social aspects of work. I work in manufacturing so I haven’t WFH but I do work nights where I’m the only one. Problem-solving conversations are important to my job but I have to pass it on to others because I don’t get to talk to anyone. So I totally get missing that. Work relationships cannot be replaced by hobbies or sporting events. I thrive on intellectual conversations that come with work. It’s why I do the work I do. When I don’t get that, it becomes pretty hard to bare and makes me really unhappy and depressed. It’s just what makes me tick.

    Touch base with your boss and express your needs to see what comes out of it. Touch on the why beyond just wanting to be around people. Even better, bring up how these problem-solving conversations helped your work. If nothing is going to change, you probably should look for a different job.

  81. roll-the-dice*

    I suspect that if I lived alone, or even if I lived with family but not my partner, I would feel similar to how the LW feels. (While I doubt I will ever want to be back in the office full time, I would certainly be longing for some sort of hybrid work arrangement.)

    LW, I am sorry that you feel this way, but it probably is best in this case that you seek a new role with a different company, as is usually the case with these sorts of disconnects between office culture and employee comfort with it. (On this point I speak from some very painful, hard-won experience.)

    I also think you are right in that some of your colleagues may react very strongly, and negatively, to any requests you put in that you or others come back to the office, especially as so many workplaces have been so obnoxious in forcing people back into offices, even when it isn’t safe to do so.

  82. Anony-Mouse*

    I always appreciate Alison’s kind, balanced responses to the letter writers. Like how she noted that what may be spontaneous conversations to the letter writer may be seen as disruptions by others. Different strokes for different folks. I know I am finding it easier to have spontaneous conversations over IM, while keeping things less disruptive (hopefully!) for others; I wait for people to be listed as “available” instead of “busy” or “away”. People seem to be good about setting their IM status appropriately.

  83. Tali*

    To everyone suggesting OP “find another outlet for their social needs”… are you serious?
    A) Did you not notice the pandemic that has kept people from socializing for a year and a half?
    B) If only there were some people OP could talk to besides their coworkers. About work, to brainstorm, to discuss the industry and make small talk. During the workday. Hm… kind of sounds like OP’s coworkers are the best people for that!
    C) OP struggling with suddenly having to do WFH does not mean you will be forced to return to the office. It is unlikely you work in the same company. Acknowledging some people like OP work better at the office does not remove the option of WFH for you.

    1. Tired*

      Regarding (C), I think the point being made by some commenters is valid: to take a very extreme example, if one of my colleagues, in expressing their own preference for going back into the office, resulted in management making a decision that saw me being told that in order to maintain my job I would also have to come back into the office as well, I would be furious. I would likely never forgive that person, no matter what their intentions were in expressing that preference.

      This is something that has indeed happened in real workplaces, and the person making the request, no matter how innocently made, became the most loathed person there. The problem, as usual, is management, but they’re really the ones who pay any prices in the workplace.

      1. Elsajeni*

        I mean, that would suck, certainly. It would also suck for that hypothetical colleague if you, in expressing your own preference for working at home, resulted in management deciding that everyone would have to work from home forever! I don’t understand the approach some replies seem to be taking that management following the OP’s preferences would be, like, an act of cruelty against her coworkers, but if management follows the preferences of those who want to keep working from home, that’s just the way it goes and if the OP doesn’t like it she can look for a different job. If management decides they want to bring people back in-office, whether or not the OP voicing a preference has anything to do with that decision, well… that’s the way it goes and if her coworkers don’t like it they, too, can look for a different job.

        1. Tired*

          Sorry, I made a typo in my comment above, I meant “The problem, as usual, is management, but they’re NEVER really the ones who pay any prices in the workplace.” Oops.

          To be honest, I loathe working in an office. I always have. I find it noisy and distracting, and I work far more effectively at home. I have also worked in many toxic offices, and my commutes have never eaten up less than three hours of my day, every day. Working from home also allows me to have a life outside of work. WFH, I have time for friends, family, hobbies, cooking and exercise, as well as proper sleep, for the first time since I started working full time almost 15 years ago.

          Frankly, as ridiculous as it may seem, I would feel like it was a cruelty to be forced back into the office due to the views and preferences of a minority in the staff, purely because they wanted to be in an office surrounded by other people. My job is not to provide social interaction or company to my colleagues, beyond any civil, polite teamwork my job genuinely requires. (But that is work, not socialising.) I do have friends at work, but that is luck and chance, not a requirement.

          I really feel for the LW, as it is similar to how I have felt having to work in an office every single day. But I think Alison is right in her advice: if this WFH culture in LW’s workplace does not suit LW, LW needs to do what everyone else has to do and find a workplace that insists on no WFH. There are plenty of them, more than those which allow WFH.

          The idea that one of the minority of workplaces that is comfortable with WFH could be “ruined” by one person’s desire to have people around them in an office is likely what is inspiring the strong reactions in many commenters, especially those who have had to fight against stupid employers wanting to drag people back in before it is actually safe to do so (and that last one does include me).

    2. Matt*

      The problem is that it’s not only about OP or anyone preferring to work at the office – I guess no one will prohibit working at the office. OP mentions they also don’t want to work in an empty office, which means getting coworkers into the office too – which can range from nudging to forcing, depending on what the other individual coworker wants. So yes, it’s perfectly legitimate to say “I want to work at the office”, but if the real point is “I want to work at the office and have my coworkers there too” that’s an entirely different matter.

  84. Tired*

    I can’t help but wonder if those who loathe WFH now feel any empathy for those of us who do not particularly like dragging into an office every single day, when we work far more effectively at home, and have had to do so our entire careers up until COVID hit.

    For years, work was my social outlet, and my relationships with my friends and family suffered, because working in an office took up so much of my time, including the torturous commutes of at least an hour each way.

    During the pandemic and WFH, I’ve finally been able to rebuild some of these relationships. I’ve been able to take time for myself, and am healthier, as I’ve had time to exercise and cook, and am not always running on a permanent sleep debt because of the stupid work hours mixed with a long commute.

    I feel for you, OP, that WFH is not your preferred way of working. That’s awful.

    But your colleagues likely feel the same way about going back into the office. So I wouldn’t touch that, if I were you. I would start looking for a new job, as there are many companies who absolutely refuse to even consider WFH, even during the middle of a global pandemic.

    1. Metadata minion*

      “I can’t help but wonder if those who loathe WFH now feel any empathy for those of us who do not particularly like dragging into an office every single day, when we work far more effectively at home, and have had to do so our entire careers up until COVID hit.”

      This seems unnecessarily snarky. I felt empathy for you before! People should be able to work from home or in the office as their actual job duties (as in, the lab equipment is in the office and I cannot take it home type of job duties) and preferences dictate, not what makes the most sense for the company’s bottom line.

      1. Tired*

        I don’t think it’s snarky, and it’s definitely not meant to come across that way.

        The LW has not stated that any part of their job, or that of their colleagues, requires something like specialist equipment that is only located at the office. It would appear that all their jobs can be performed remotely, especially as it sounds like no one is in the office.

        If LW has a preference to work in the office and not at home, fine. But it sounds like LW’s preference is to work from the office, with at least some other people there. And therein lies the potential problem: as you said, if work can be performed remotely, it should be about worker preference, not what dictates the company’s bottom line, etc. It sounds like all work can be performed remotely, and that everyone is happy to keep doing that, other than LW. There are numerous company’s which insist upon working from the office, no matter what. LW should go and work for one of those if they feel so strongly about this point.

  85. K in Boston*

    Could there perhaps be a few tinier alleviations that may help? Agree it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be able to get everyone to happily come back into the office every day — but my like-to-be-permanently-remote team is considering doing something like having everyone come in once a month. Obviously it’s still nowhere near the same as coming in every day, but could be a reasonable compromise. I hate commuting but I’m open to coming in once a month to seeing folks and doing some in-person collaboration. (Of course, there are logistics to be considered with that, as well — size of your team, where your working space would be, etc. — but an option.)

    Throughout the pandemic, we’ve also had an optional non-business check-in once a week for half an hour. Folks who wanna talk non-work stuff with their colleagues can hop on, and folks who don’t can continue working through the half hour.

    We’ve also separately done some virtual happy hours, fun-time, etc.

    With vaccinations being at a good overall rate in our state and our state of emergency being lifted, people also seem eager to start scheduling one-off work celebrations, like to get a Doodle together to figure out a day to drink at a restaurant after work.

    One of my colleagues put together a virtual calendar for us to put on days we’re OOO or won’t be able to commute into the office (e.g. after-work commitments, picking up kids from school), and wants to use it to plan a couple days for us to come in.

    None of these are replacements for daily in-person interaction, but could be some alleviations depending on your office. You can be the Chief Fun Officer (as my previous company used to call it)!

  86. waffles*

    Dear OP, you aren’t alone! Just wanted to share with you that the pandemic made me think hard about whether I can do this for the rest of my working life (15-30 more years). Though I didn’t mind working from home (and did it on and off prior to the pandemic), the pandemic has really changed that for me. Prior to this I WFH’ed because it was convenient for me personally, my work allowed it, and I had a fair amount of travel – but the thought of sitting in my home at my desk for the rest of my work life does not excite me. I know we might not be here forever, but I do think it’s reasonable that disease outbreaks will change how everything works. So I decided I can’t do WFH as a norm, but equally I don’t want to be forced to go back to work if I don’t feel safe. So, I decided to start working towards another career that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a few years now that I think (usually) prioritizes safety, is always done in person, and is with people. It took me a lot of reflection to get to this very initial decision, to start taking classes and retraining – so wherever you’re at in the journey, good luck!

  87. FuzzyBrain*

    A member of my team hated WFH. They’ve been going into the office – which they have like 3 floors of office space to share with 5 or 6 others. Even as we talk about permanent work from home, hybrid, permanent full-time back at the office, I have left it 100% up to them on their preference.

  88. TheOfficeIsNotTheDevil*

    I will say that I am completely and totally unsurprised by the responses here. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that the minute someone expresses an opinion that challenges the effectiveness of permanent WFH, they are absolutely piled on by commenters. God forbid a person say “I really miss seeing other humans and I am struggling with what my job has become” because it puts a target on their back. I am exhausted hearing about how WFH people just cannot deal with the idea of returning to an office as if they were not there before. All of a sudden, being in an office is akin to torture and anyone who disagrees is an asshole. Yes, jobs change and flex and evolve. But this has been a seismic shift and this idea that people who are anxious to return to an office are ruining it for everyone else is beyond me. I mean, you accepted a job in an office. How is is possible that returning to that same job is now an absolute nightmare?

    1. llamaswithouthats*

      I think it’s an extreme reaction to the status quo prepandemic. Pre-COVID, many of the same jobs managers swore for years could not be done remotely…were done remotely over more than a year. People feel lied to, and are probably feeling a little vindictive and refusing to return at all. I understand that not all jobs can be done effectively from home, but many can and managers were just withholding WFH flexibility from their employees Just Because.

      To be clear, this doesn’t justify being disrespectful to people who do prefer WFH. Like I said, the reaction is extreme, but there is a valid reason behind the bitterness.

      1. llamaswithouthats*

        Correction: I meant to say “This doesn’t justify being rude to people who DONT prefer WFH.”

  89. YoungTen*

    Hello op, I’m the complete opposite of you but empathize with what you must be feeling. I know how I felt working in an environment that was way overstimulating. I felt completely drained abs dreaded each day. You sound like an Extrovert who gains emotional energy from your environment. And right now, that environment is dry! One suggestion, while your job may be remote, many other places abs activities are opening up. Could you join a club or group in your city? Maybe volunteer for a cause that interest you? No matter one’s temperament, work is really not meant to be the primary source for our relationships. I truly hope you find a good solution

  90. Kimberly*

    I feel this post so hard. While I ultimately prefer to work from home, I am also dealing with all of the downsides mentioned by OP. On top of that, I started my job in May of 2020, so right in the throes of people transitioning from office to home. There was absolutely no on-boarding into my new company or my specific department. For that reason alone, I needed to be able to ask my co-workers simple questions quickly, and I couldn’t from my solitary home office. When I tried to reach out via email, many of the responses I received were delayed, short, rushed, and written as though I had a lot of contextual information about the company and department that I didn’t. A year in, I am just now starting to feel better about things, but I haven’t “bonded” with anyone in my department. I have no “go to” people and no way to bounce ideas off of anyone because people sometimes take days to respond to an email and almost no one answers their phone.

    My boss has already started having general conversations with me about the potential of my taking over for him one day, but I’m certain that if that day comes, the hiring committee will want to know what my co-workers think of me, and I’m concerned that they won’t have anything positive to say because we literally never interact beyond occasional emails.

    The idea of isolated work wasn’t something that many people had to consider when applying for positions prior to Covid because there wasn’t any other option than multi-person offices, but now- post Covid- it is definitely a major factor to think about for people who thrive with more group interaction. Some companies who are willing to let employees work from home if they want to might be wise to maintain at least *some* office space so that those who like to work outside of their home can do so, even if the person in the neighboring office is from a completely separate department.

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