my employees prefer remote work but I don’t, feeling emotional about resigning, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I manage a team that prefers remote work — but I prefer working in-person

My work is looking at returning to physical space in the fall and they are giving us a lot of leeway for remote/hybrid work (yay!). It does bring up an issue for me, though. I manage eight people on my team and I know a number of them would be happy to never come into the office again. They have all proven themselves more than capable to work from home – they transitioned and have been amazing during the pandemic work-from-home. However, I personally work best when I can see/talk with people in person at least periodically. What balance can I strike between giving my team what they want and what I need in my own work style? I would love to ask each team member to come in at least once every 1-2 weeks, but unless there’s a true need is that out of line? I guess my question is, as a manager, when does my own work style matter and when do I need to get over it?

I think it depends on what you mean by work style. If it’s mostly personal preference — along the lines of “I’m happier when I see people face-to-face more often” — I don’t think that’s a reason to make people come in. But it would be different if it genuinely affects the work — for instance, if you find that you and your team work through problems faster/more successfully in person, or if it’s difficult to follow their explanations of how a project is unfolding without talking face-to-face, or if one of the ways you manage their work is by observing it in-person periodically and it’s harder to do that virtually, or if you’ve seen from experience that brainstorming with a group all sitting in the same room gives you better results than doing it remotely. In cases like those, it’s not unreasonable to explain that and plan for in-office days every week or two.

2. Is it weird to feel emotional about resigning?

I’ve been in my current role for a little over a year. I was laid off due to Covid last year, but was later rehired when funding increased again.

I recently accepted a position at another company and I’m pretty excited about it (it’s exactly what I would want at this point in my career!). I was recruited for the role so I wasn’t actively looking to leave, but it was too good to pass up.

I gave my notice to my manager and he asked if there was anything that would make me reconsider leaving (I politely stated there wasn’t). Afterward, I felt more emotional than expected, especially when a couple of coworkers who I’m closer to contacted me about it later that day.

After some reflection, I think I get strangely attached to my jobs. For example, at my previous company, I worked on a team for five years and my teammates, manager, and I had been through so much together. After I resigned, both my boss and I were on the verge of tears.

While this isn’t preventing me from moving forward (obviously, I’ve still chosen to leave those positions since it makes the most sense professionally), I’m trying to gauge if this is incredibly strange and something I should work on not doing in the future. I’m not an overly emotional person in general, but apparently I have a soft spot in this area.

Nah, it’s not that strange! A lot of people get attached to their jobs and their coworkers, and it’s very normal for resigning to be hard or bittersweet. That’s true even when you’re leaving a job that you’re glad to get away from. You’ve spent 40+ hours a week there, possibly for years. You have inside jokes with people and a shared history. You know how to navigate all the unique weirdnesses every office has and how to get things done within that particular context. It’s comfortable. A big piece of your life happened there! It makes sense to have mixed feelings about leaving, even when you know intellectually that you’re making the right move.

3. My boss gets antsy when he can’t reach me

I work for a start-up company as an office manager focusing mostly on financials. We have a very small office, just a room in a large suite that we rent. It’s only big enough for one person, maybe two. I was working remotely for the most part and was told to manage my time however I see fit. So I would go in most mornings to check the mail, then work for a couple of hours and head home during lunch and work the rest of the day from there. Then, a few months ago, my boss decided he wanted someone in the office all day, so that ended up being me. Although I don’t agree, I didn’t argue and I go there every day by myself.

Now I am getting the third degree from my boss. He snaps at me whenever I don’t answer the phone immediately and is constantly questioning where I am. A few days ago, he showed up to the office while I was at lunch and began questioning me again as to why I wasn’t there. When I came back from lunch, my office neighbors stopped me and said my boss had been there and had asked everyone in our hall about my daily movements. These are people who I have never met or interacted with and now they know my name and I’m assuming they were asked to keep an eye on me because they now keep their doors open so they can see me walk by. I have given no reason for this treatment. I do my job and I do it well. I’m upset but I don’t know if I have the right to be. Is this normal behavior? Or am I right to feel that this was inappropriate?

No, this isn’t normal. If your boss has concerns about where you are or if you’re being as productive as he wants you to, he should raise his concerns with you directly, not just snap at you, interrogate you, or ask random people who don’t even work for your company to keep an eye on you (!).

Since your boss isn’t raising it directly, you should. I’d say this to him: “Since you asked me a few months ago to work from the office all day, that’s what I’ve been doing. But you’ve sounded concerned recently if I don’t answer the phone while I’m at lunch or am otherwise unavailable at any particular moment, and you’ve been asking a lot about where I am. Do you have concerns about my work that we could try to address?”

4. Will it harm the friend who referred me if I quit?

I’m wondering what you think generally happens when an employee referral doesn’t work out long-term. A good friend of mine referred me for a great job that came with a good salary increase and much better title. The company itself is good, the job is fine, but the people I work with day to day, specifically my boss, are less than ideal and combative to the point I feel I will never be effective here. I’ve tried to stick it out but I’m not sure how much longer I want to. The thing that is causing me the most angst about the thought of leaving is the fact that my friend referred me and I am worried that it would look bad for her to have referred me if I end up staying less than a year. I’m going to try to stick it out and hope for improvement, but it’s not looking optimistic.

Sometimes referrals don’t work out. Your friend may have connected you with the company and vouched for your work, but she couldn’t guarantee it would be a perfect match, and a reasonable company wouldn’t expect her to. If you left in a flaming huff of unprofessionalism or sabotaged the filing system on your way out, that would of course be awkward for her. But if you give the job a good-faith effort and just conclude it’s not right for you — based on info you didn’t have until you were already working there — and if you handle your resignation professionally and respectfully, it should be fine. (If you can, though, try to talk with her about it first so she’s not blindsided. And who knows, she might appreciate the opportunity to suggest things that could help — like “wait it out because your boss is almost certainly leaving at the end of the summer” or “there’s an opening on the X team that you’d love and could transfer into.”)

5. Forced to make up hours after closing for a holiday

Can my employer close for a holiday without pay, then force us to make up the hours during the course of the week?

Yes. It’s crappy but they can do it. (That assumes that you’re paid for the make-up hours. They have to pay you for whatever hours you work. And if you’re exempt, they can’t dock your pay for this at all, but they can indeed require the extra hours.)

{ 271 comments… read them below }

  1. Unkempt Flatware*

    For #5, was the question about an employer who is requiring 4 10 hour work days for the remaining days or is the employer just not paying for holiday pay and therefore forcing those who want to make up for it work extra hours?

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It sounded like a salaried job – so the pay for the week is the same, but they have to work four ten hour days instead of four eight (or four 11 instead of five 9, if it’s more 9-6).

      1. Darren*

        Except that would imply they were paid for the holiday (by nature of getting the same pay for the whole week).

        To be clear most of the possible situations are against the rules and the employer is operating improperly.

        Either they are being made to make up the 40 hours, because their pay for the week is unchanged (which is fine for a exempt, but for an non-exempt may result in overtime pay depending on location as in some overtime can accrue for more than 8 hours in a day as well as more than X hours in a week).

        Or their pay has been changed and they don’t need to make up the hours (which is fine for non-exempt, but actually not okay for exempt where they would need to be paid the same for the week even if they didn’t work a public holiday or make up the hours afterwards).

        Or the situation actually described both their pay is docked and they need to make up the hours. Which is not okay for either non-exempt or exempt.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Yeah, I thought of this from the way they’d framed it also. They can certainly either require that you make up the hours OR not pay you for the hours. But they can’t do both.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, it’s legal:

          * They’re exempt and they’re being required to work additional hours that week because the office is closed on Monday. If they’re exempt, their pay cannot be docked, but they can be required to work more hours. (In this case, the LW’s wording “closed without pay” isn’t technically correct, but I hear people say things like that all the time when they mean “the day is not counting toward work hours.”)

          * They’re non-exempt, they’re not being paid for Monday because the office is closed, but they’re being required to work an extra 8 hours the rest of the week, bringing them to 40 hours total. (And yes, in a few states if the extra hours are on other work days, they’d need overtime for those days. Or the extra hours could be on, say, Saturday, in which case that wouldn’t apply.)

          The only situations where this wouldn’t be legal are situations that the LW does not describe: (a) they’re exempt and their pay for the week is less than their normal salary, or (b) they’re non-exempt and they’re required to work hours they’re not paid for.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I just realized you’re reading the question as (a) closed for the holiday without pay and (b) forced to make up those hours the rest of the week, also without pay. The latter would of course be illegal. But I don’t see any indication that the make-up hours aren’t being paid. My read is the make-up hours are being paid — but the LW is annoyed that they’re having to work those make-up hours to get their normal full weekly pay.

            I’m going to clarify in the answer though.

            1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

              I’m assuming, though, that this would have to all be in the same week as the holiday closure? They couldn’t close on a Friday without pay, then have staff work 48 hours the following week but not pay 8 hours of overtime, correct?

              My wife’s old job used to force this on them, and it always seemed bright line illegal to me… unfortunately we weren’t in a position then to push back since her boss would have summarily fired anyone who raised labor issues.

              1. Medical Librarian*

                That’s how my husband’s job, where they are hourly employees, works–all in the same week. They have a regular Monday-Friday week. Say they close for Thanksgiving on a Thursday, so then have to work that Saturday to make up the eight hours for the day off. Essentially, they don’t get paid for holidays.

                1. MissBaudelaire*

                  This is how it was at my last hourly position. If we were closed for a holiday, like Thanksgiving, we’d have to make it up on Saturday. So we were paid for Saturday, which was our base pay plus “weekend bonus”, which was a whole 25 cents an hour.

                  We, as employees asked if we could stay late an hour during the rest of the week, or come in earlier to avoid having to work Saturday, or at least to cut down the time needed. No dice, we were told, as then we’d be getting daily overtime, and the company didn’t want to pay that.

                  It was a really nasty way for them to get tall their hours and never have to pay over time or holiday pay, is what I’m really saying.

                2. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

                  Yes, but having to make it up Saturday was still in the same work week. In my wife’s case, she would often have to make up the hours in another week, such that she was working 48–50 hours some weeks but getting no overtime unless the total went above 80 for a continuous pay period (and they adjusted when the pay period fell every few weeks to make sure there was always some 14 day window that people had under 80 hours).

              2. Pickled Limes*

                I think it depends on whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt. Where I am, an exempt worker has to put in 80 hours over the course of a two week pay period. It’s okay if one week is 32 and the next week is 48 as long as the overall total for the two weeks is 80. But a non-exempt worker has to put in 40 hours per week. If they go under, they use PTO or just get paid for the hours they worked. If they go over, overtime pay is required.

                1. Aitch Arr*

                  Just a note that the employer can determine the work week. For some, it’s Sunday-Saturday, for others, it’s Monday-Sunday.

              3. doreen*

                It depends on the details- although my work schedule is Monday through Friday , my payweek is Thursday – Wed. I can absolutely take Friday 6/25 off, work a double shift on Monday 6/28 and work 48 hours in the M-F week that starts June 28 but only 40 each in the payweeks that start June 24 and July 1. Payweeks don’t have to line up with any individual person’s work schedule and always run a full 7 days ( Sun-Sat, Thurs to Wed or even noon Friday to 11:59am the next Friday)

    1. ender*

      My company is on a 9/80 schedule, where most days are 9 hours and every other Friday is off. But holiday pay is only for 8 hours, so the extra hour has to be made up or taken as PTO when one occurs. I think California workers are an exception and they have to be paid 9-hr holidays.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        As I understand it, that schedule is legal for the US federal government because they made it legal for them, but it’s not legal for non-government because the overtime rules are based on a 40 hour work week and not an 80 hour two week period, but I might be getting my information mixed up.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        I work for a California state agency. If someone is on a 9/8/80 schedule, holidays are still paid out at 8 hour days. It might be different in the private sector, but not in the public sector.

      3. doreen*

        Depends on how the workweek is structured. Usually for a 9/80 schedule where you work every other Friday for 8 hours, the payweek ends midday on Friday. So the first four hours you work on Friday are in week 1 and the other four are in week 2. You are working four hour days and one four hour day in each payweek.

    2. Retail Not Retail*

      I read this as retail/hourly – you usually work on Thursdays and are off Fridays, holiday is on a Thursday and the business is closed, you want those hours, work Friday. My store had no holiday pay but closed on Christmas and had reduced hours on some days which meant reduced checks unless you worked a day you usually had off.

      1. Llama Llama*

        Same – I think this is a retail situation or other situation where the business is open 6 or 7 days and not just 5.

        1. Cari*

          Yeah, my workplace has this situation every year for Christmas and New Year’s. We are closed for the Eve of those holidays, but since they’re not paid, we either have to make up the time in the week or use vacation or a floating holiday.

    3. Sal*

      Our field crews normally work four 10-hour days, with Friday usually being the day off. We work on projects for the federal government occasionally, who recognizes several holidays we don’t (think Columbus Day). But if our employees work on that job site that day we would have to pay them double time since it is a federal jobsite and a federal holiday (with no extra compensation from the government). Therefore, they stay home on the federal holiday (without pay) and work the other four days that week. No one has ever complained.

    4. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Does it help to think of #5 as there is not a holiday, there is just a day when the office is closed?

      My employer has a list of holidays when full-time staff don’t work but get paid for those days.
      This employer might also have a list of paid holidays but also days the office is closed but it is not a holiday for staff.

      I think it is poor practice but employers do it.

      FYI: our part-time staff don’t work on holidays AND don’t get paid for them. PT only get paid when they work. They can make up the hours but are not required to.

      1. PT*

        This is how it’s been at places I’ve worked. F/T hourly employees would get (normal) hours holiday pay for, say, Christmas when we were closed, but they would log 0 hours if we were closed because they were painting the ceiling with scaffolding and sprayers. P/T employees would log 0 hours no pay in both situations.

        They would be able to make up the hours missed on Ceiling Painting Day by working extra hours in the same day (if that option was available to them based on their work schedule and state law), working extra days, or claiming PTO (if they had it.)

      2. MassMatt*

        What a terrible practice, especially if it’s the norm for all holidays and not just some of them. So Thanksgiving, New Year’s etc–yay, you work 10 hour days for 4 days. I’m surprised this employer isn’t having people work more hours to “make up” for having weekends.

    5. Llellayena*

      I’m wondering if this was specifically for the newly created Juneteenth national holiday? That was kind of sprung on everyone last minute so companies may have needed to offer the day off (either because they’re federal related or for PR/showing support) but didn’t have the extra vacation day in the company budget for this year’s planning. It still sucks to have people make up the time for it though.

    6. Momma Bear*

      I was a contractor at a facility that took more federal holidays than my parent company did. Even if I was physically unable to work (office locked), I either had to make up the time or take PTO when there was a schedule mis-match. There were no other accommodations for those of us in that situation. No, I didn’t like it. Yes, it was one of the things I eventually quit over.

  2. staceyizme*

    LW3- it sounds like your boss has issues and he’s projecting them onto you. Maybe he’s trying to control what he can because he feels out of control elsewhere? Regardless, if he’s escalated to this extent in terms of demanding that you be in the office, be available at the drop of a hat and account for your movements (or else he’ll start his own Official Investigation by asking random strangers with offices close by), you’d be far better served by quietly looking for work while managing his expectations as best you can. He’s become Boss Bonkers. It’s unfortunate, because it sounds like you had a good thing going for awhile, work wise. Your mileage may vary, obviously, along with your tolerance for his petty overreach and your estimation of how likely any return to a semblance of sanity might be. Usually, though, when people make a hard left turn into some sort of dysfunction junction, it’s time to leave at the earliest/ best possible opportunity. (Because, if it was about your work, he’d have used his words and said something somewhere along the way. At least, a reasonable manager/ owner/ boss would.)

    1. Kes*

      OP3’s boss sounds like the manager at my first internship. At one point myself and a couple other interns were moved to a different room because they were running out of space in our department’s area. Boss came around to check on us every 15 minutes at first, told others in the room with us (who we weren’t working with at all, just random other employees) to keep an eye on us, and flipped out on us when he came by one time and all three of us weren’t there (because we had followed a longstanding department habit of going across the road to get coffee).
      Suffice to say, he was not a great boss in general (spent most of his own time playing games on his computer and calling used car dealerships) and I always felt his micromanagement was due to insecurity and projection. Unfortunately, I don’t really have advice beyond trying what Alison suggested to point out that your work is good, or considering looking for a new job if that doesn’t work.

    2. No Ragrets*

      Yep. It sounds like he doesn’t trust you and has decided you must be cheating him. You didn’t do anything to cause it, and you probably can’t do anything to fix it. It’s worth trying what Alison suggested, but I’d also be looking for other jobs.

      Also, who are these other people in your office building who are now spying on you and reporting back to the boss??? That is some next-level weirdness. Do they know the boss and feel some obligation to him? Otherwise I can’t imagine why they would agree to participate in this craziness.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I agree. I used to work in a shared space with a bunch of other start ups and if someone had come by to ask us to keep an eye on someone from another office, we would have thought it was VERY weird. Either he trusts that you have the office covered/handled and take appropriate (LEGAL) breaks or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, then you need to find another job. I have never regretted leaving a job with a micromanager.

  3. AKchic*

    LW3’s boss sounds paranoid. You work “mostly on financials”. Do you have any insight in just how well the business is actually doing financially? Specifically – if you are high paid, would he think his company would benefit from hiring someone cheaper? If you are low-paid and/or a minor player in the office (assistant rather than management), could he think that eliminating you from the role and then not filling the position when you leave, could save him some money?

    As strange as he’s acting right now, it looks like he’s searching for a reason to fire you because he doesn’t have a valid one right now. That doesn’t bode well for you.

    1. Just Asking Questions*

      But why does he need to search for a “valid” reason to fire LW3? An employee can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all.

      1. Anononon*

        Eh, still most companies like to have a reason before firing someone. It’s part of why “at will” employment isn’t always as egregious as it sounds – most places won’t just fire someone with zero justification. (Note, I said most, not all.)

        1. Clisby*

          But, “we’re experiencing financial trouble and have to cut your position” is a justification. I would think that’s a fairly common reason to lay off someone (at least in the US).

          1. Anononon*

            I never said it wasn’t. I was replying to Just Asking Questions, who asked why the boss needed a reason at all, full stop.

            1. Observer*

              Please. The question was why the boss would need “a reason” ON TOP of or INSTEAD OF “financial issues”.

          2. DireRaven*

            It is a perfectly valid justification. However, if OP were laid off because the position was cut due to financial troubles, there is a certain amount of time that has to pass before they can fill the position again (so can’t lay OP off and then turn around and hire someone cheaper/a nepotism hire like the CEO’s nephew in the same position.) and OP would be eligible for unemployment. If OP is fired for cause/misconduct, they might not be eligible for unemployment – depending on the state. (Or the boss believes that anyways.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              In the U.S., there’s no requirement that they wait to fill the position after a layoff. (However, if the person laid off can argue the real reason they were laid off was an illegal one — race, gender, disability, etc. — that’s going to be a problem. Otherwise, not.)

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I didn’t think he was looking to fire her as such (although it’s possible!) but rather that he’s worried about something else and redirecting it onto something more concrete/controllable. The “something else” could well be trouble at the company – financial, etc – especially taking into account that it’s a startup, are there perhaps problems with funding or something like that.

    3. WellRed*

      This was
      My reaction. How is the company doing? Even with the bad boss behavior is it time to get out?

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      This is a start-up, and your boss is lashing out about stuff.
      This probably means:
      * funding has dried up
      * product development isn’t meeting targets
      * market research and customer discovery indicate there’s no real market for what the company is doing

      He’s angry and worried about the business, and you just happen to be a convenient target.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’ve been in this situation before, too, and it sounds familiar. The boss is spinning out of control because Something Very Bad is happening to the business, and he’s chosen OP as the target for his frustration.

        It’s possible he’s just a really bad micromanager, but even micromanagers don’t usually shake down people outside their company for intel on their own team. OP, this is very odd behavior and I hope you find a new role somewhere else.

      2. pancakes*

        Or he’s paranoid. Plenty of people act out without having business problems on their plate. It could very well be a sign the business is in trouble, but without more information, who knows.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Could be, but it sounds like this behavior started when OP started working mostly onsite.

          As I said, the boss’s behavior sounds familiar to me, and business problems outside my team’s control were the reason.

        2. Nicotene*

          That wouldn’t be my conclusion, I’d just assume he called and swung by to the office expecting OP to be there, and when she wasn’t, he started getting paranoid that she’s slacking and started digging. He probably realized he doesn’t have “proof” she’s doing what she says. One of the things that I struggle with the MOST in the office world is how one or two small things (maybe he called once not during lunch and she couldn’t pick up for whatever reasons, or missed an email, and now this lunch thing) suddenly paint this pattern that it’s impossible to get out of: no matter how many emails or phone calls you DO answer, suspicion lingers.

          1. Observer*

            I’d just assume he called and swung by to the office expecting OP to be there, and when she wasn’t, he started getting paranoid that she’s slacking and started digging.

            Except that this is not what the OP described. They say that Boss snaps whenever he can’t get a hold of them or if they don’t immediately answer the phone. Also, going from grilling someone about why they went out to lunch (which is an over-reaction on its own) to asking others to keep any eye on the OP is ridiculous. That is NOT a reasonable level of “digging” in the least bit. It’s not only an unreasonable reaction to hearing that someone went to lunch, it’s “you should not be managing anyone” level of mismanagement.

          2. Artemesia*

            I was once on vacation and a higher up in the organization called me (not my immediate boss) and the temp working in the office who had never met me said ‘oh I haven’t seen her today — she didn’t come in yesterday either, I don’t know when she will be around.’ THAT cemented this honcho’s opinion of me as a slacker although I was of course ‘not around’ because I was on vacation. So if the first time this guy drops in, you aren’t there and only yesterday you didn’t pick up the phone when he called — he may now have a firm view of you as a slacker although you aren’t.

            1. pancakes*

              Ugh. That temp is (or was) seriously in need of some guidance on how to not throw coworkers under a bus!

      3. Observer*

        He’s angry and worried about the business, and you just happen to be a convenient target.

        I think that this is highly likely.

    5. Observer*

      As strange as he’s acting right now, it looks like he’s searching for a reason to fire you because he doesn’t have a valid one right now.

      I don’t think so. There are a lot of reasons why the boss could be acting this way. None of them are objectively REASONABLE, but they are more likely than this. If nothing else, the boss can fire the OP without a “valid” reasons. And if the boss thinks they need one, I’m sure he would have no problem in turning the OP’s current behavior “valid”. “I had to ask random strangers to monitor OP’s comings and goings because the OP is not always able to answer the phone when I call.”

      That’s not REASONABLE, of course. But Boss’ behavior is no reasonable, regardless, so I don’t think we need to consider reasonableness when looking at motivations.

      In my experience, this stuff happens when someone is a control freak or they are stressed out.

      1. MassMatt*

        I’m wondering why, if being in the office is so important, why the BOSS isn’t in the office? And if this office is so small that only 1-2 people could fit in it, what sort of on-site duties there might even be other than getting mail? Is this a customer-facing role?

        The boss sounds terrible, I would definitely look for something else if possible. Dropping by an office unannounced and wondering where your employee is at lunchtime seems… dumb. But in the meanwhile, maybe the boss needs updates whenever you leave the office for lunch or bathroom breaks?

        1. Momma Bear*

          Secondarily, if he needs no downtime, ever, then he needs to hire a second person so they can cover each other. Otherwise is OP never supposed to eat or pee? That’s unreasonable. Sounds like he didn’t set expectations at the start, either.

        2. OP - Scenario 3*

          Why I would “need” to be in the office is still beyond me. There is no “need” to be there. The only thing that arrives here is mail. We aren’t a customer facing company. Nobody comes here for any reason. I can do my work regardless of where I am. I have asked and tried to understand their motives but I still can’t comprehend why I need to be here. The only theory I have is control.

      2. Artemesia*

        While companies can fire anyone for no reason at all in the US, bosses often can’t. They have to justify it to THEIR bosses. So he may be building a case to present.

  4. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    LW #1, you are a breath of fresh air compared to the bosses people are complaining about (and that I’m seeing at my own work and the work of my friends). Thank you for thinking about this in terms of balancing needs, and in terms of spacing it out.

    My one recommendation would be to look at the “work at work” day like a staff meeting: what specifically are the things that work best in person? What do you need to focus on that day (in addition to your normal tasks) to make it feel worthwhile for people to come in? Otherwise, I’d worry about your people wondering why they were coming in.

    1. John Smith*

      +1. My manager makes us come in to the office purely for the sake of it, often making up tasks that aren’t necessary (or useful) at all but can only be done in the office. When challenged he just wears you out with a load of hypothetical scenarios. I think someone called it presenteeism. I call it arseholeism.

      Please do make sure there is a good valid reason to want people to come in and you will keep the trust of your staff.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Honestly at two days a month, the reason can be in-person planning. Make it casual dress, use good coffee in the office coffee maker, and let people flex their start/stop times around your core hours, and I’d be content.
        Caveat to OP: we are still in a pandemic, so be alert for staff who need to continue masks & social distancing, and are staying “bubbled” for personal interactions. Keep from packing people in.
        Use me as an example. I have 2 immediate family members on immunosuppressants, so I still shop at off hours. I even masked at a neighbor’s backyard gathering. Don’t ask me to sit in a small room with 8 people and no open windows. If you’ve got a 50 foot table in the board room, that might be enough for me to concentrate on work, but not if it’s an interior room with one HVAC vent.

        1. Jack Straw*

          Agreed. TBH, my coworkers who mostly WFH look forward to these in-person days. They’re almost like a treat, you get to wear different clothes, get in the car and go somewhere, eat lunch with other adults, etc.

        2. Smithy*

          I’m in this camp. If 2-4 days a month were scheduled around ~4-6 hours of meetings, some of which might be more focused on brainstorming or learning opportunities this would make complete sense for me.

          One of my biggest worries about the idea of having one set day a week in the office is if it gets done willy nilly, and I end up with a lot of time hot desking and just working on my laptop. I know for some teams, one day with 4-6 hours of meetings each week would be all too easy. And then for others it might be closer to 1-2 times a month – but as the manager if you put the effort in planning those days that they’re full, I do think it’s really quite reasonable.

          1. Artemesia*

            I think this is the key — if you are requiring people in the office make those days well planned and clearly using collaboration and obviously doing things that are well done in person. Even if it is not earth shatteringly important, a boss with an agenda who holds a structured session on those days will appear to be committed to productivity not just butts in seats.

        3. Nicotene*

          It’s interesting. The business benefits of having remote employees – no need for office space that can fit all staff, lower cost of living if employees can work from rural areas – disappear if you require staff to come in regularly. That once a week / month staff meeting adds up if it means people still have to live a reasonable driving distance from your big-city headquarters or if you have to have ownership of a space that fits them all. Employees might prefer the hybrid model but I’m never sure it works out in cost-benefit for employeers.

          1. Washi*

            I wondered about this as well, from both sides actually. Will the business want to keep paying for the lease of a lot of square feet they’re only using a few times a month? (If multiple teams go hybrid/majority remote). If people used to work on desktops that have remained at the office, will those just continue to sit there unused the majority of the time?

            And for employees, if they are happy remote, does that mean they’ve worked out all the kinks of being remote in their current spaces, or are they happy because they anticipate being able to move to a lower-cost area further away where they can have a dedicated office?

            I’m sure this is all super region-dependent. I used to live in DC where the commute time vs. apartment size was a very real debate, but now I live somewhere more rural where it’s much more likely someone would have space for a home office.

          2. Lucy*

            My company is moving towards having fewer desks that people need to book, and also still having separate meeting rooms that can be hired. So while they are still holding office space, the capacity has been reduced.
            In our case, there’s no requirement for all or even most staff to be in on the same day and that won’t be possible with the new set up. I wonder if many other companies might also do it this way. Could be team Y comes in every other Thursday, team X every Friday, then there are those 4-5 desks always booked for those who don’t have a good WFH set up – for example. I don’t quite know how it will work, but it seems possible! Relies on a good desk booking system.

      2. AVP*

        I always think the purpose of these is to make sure you’re living close enough that you can come in whenever if they want you to. 2-3 days a month, spread out, is just enough to make sure you don’t move your family 5 hours away.

        1. MassMatt*

          This may be true, though I don’t see why this would make a difference if the jobs could be done remotely.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      It’s great that you are considering your team’s preferences along with your own. Do keep in mind that in-person isn’t necessarily better for everyone. Some people do their best work in a virtual setting because they are more comfortable expressing themselves in that environment. Having to be in-person can make some people feel like they are on display or on-the-spot. You will get better results from them if they are able to work in an environment in which they thrive. In this case that environment may be a virtual one. You still have Zoom and Teams. And your team has proven that they work well remotely. It might be a good idea to just continue to have the team work remotely, and if something comes up that requires in-person interaction, then schedule a time. But make sure that is truly needed and not just an excuse to make everyone go to the office. Also, it isn’t virtuous to prefer to be in-person.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        It wasn’t lost on me that OP for this one characterized things as “what the team WANTS” vs. “what I NEED.” Your preference for working in-person is valid, OP, but from what you said, it seems to be a preference…which is a want, not a need, and your team’s preference for remote work is no less valid than your PREFERENCE for in-person work.

        Now…as has been said, if there are things that genuinely work better in person, that’s also valid. And as long as you are, as has also been said, considerate of those who are still masking and distancing, and mindful of making good use of the time they’re in the office, then I think that’s sensible. You do seem to be trying to find a good balance, and not just telling your team “Well, I’m the manager, and this is how I want things, so deal with it or quit,” and that matters a lot. I’ve always been told that the sign of a good compromise is that everyone walks away a little unhappy, but with something they want, so that might be a good guideline to keep in mind.

    3. Laney Boggs*

      Exactly. We are back in the office 3 days a week so we can… work on the exact same laptops we use at home (they took away our towers, and I don’t think anyone actually mirrors their screen onto the monitor) and do the exact same work we’ve been doing from home for 15 months.

    4. Momma Bear*

      In many orgs, and the federal government, you are required to show up in person once or twice a pay period. I think that it would be a valid compromise to require a team day every week or two if that is necessary for your projects to move forward effectively. Also, take a step back and think about what it is that makes you feel more comfortable/productive and is there any way to replicate more of that remotely? Are you unnerved by cameras off? Do you prefer voice to text? Are there other adjustments that could help you find a middle ground? What are other departments doing (important b/c if they start eyeballing what the other teams are required to do, they may have a legit gripe if you just want to see their faces but no one else is required to do so)?

  5. nnn*

    #1: If, after a good-faith effort, you find you can’t make it work virtually and do in fact need regular in-office time, there are two things to think really critically about:

    1. Do they actually have to be in the office for the whole day?

    For people who want to be working from home, having to wake up earlier and having to deal with a rush-hour commute are particular burdens. Being able to, for example, wake up at their usual work-from-home time, go into the office for a brainstorming session over a long working lunch, and leave in time to collect the kids from school would go over much better.

    2. Instead of regularly scheduled office days, can they go into the office in response to circumstances?

    Telling people they have to be in the office (for example) one day a week feels really arbitrary, especially to people who have spend the past 15 months successfully working in the office zero days a week. It’s a lot more persuasive to say “X needs to be done in the office, for Very Good Reasons A, B and C.”

    If you’re finding X needs to be done more frequently and it would make sense to consolidate all the X onto Thursdays so people only have to come in one day a week, that’s one thing. But don’t fall into the trap of equating “people need to come into the office sometimes” with “people need to come into the office at a frequency that I dictate, regardless of circumstances.” You’ll have a lot more credibility in your employees’ eyes if it’s genuinely in response to circumstances, and if you’re making a genuine effort to minimize in-office requirements and logistical burdens.

    1. Chc34*

      I think #1 really, really depends. I know in the days where my commute was over an hour on the subway each way, I would be incredibly annoyed at being asked to come into the office just for a long working lunch.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        #1 does depend. I would be perfectly fine with something like this. I have never ever been a morning person. I hate getting up and I move slowly (and grouchily) in the morning. The worst part of my day is always the morning scramble to get out of the house at whatever time to be somewhere on time.

        As a kid, I always hated half-days of school, because what’s the point of a half-day if you still had to do all the work in the morning to get there? That’s where all the effort is; you’re not saving me anything.

        For the poster below whose office has a 20% – office requirement, I’d be perfectly fine doing 2-6 on Wednesday and Thursday and calling it good.

        1. Matthew*

          It’s going to be tricky for teams to adapt to all the possible preferences. 2-6 in the office would feel like a waste of a day for me, you can’t really do anything in the morning and I’d still be getting home around 1930. 9-1 would be be much more preferable as you have the whole afternoon and evening free. But then I’ve always been a morning person.
          It’s going to be up to each team to work out what’s best and find a balance. If you and I were on a team and we needed to collaborate in person once a week we’d probably need to compromise on an afternoon one week and a morning the next for example.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Yes, we’ve had a similar setup and some people come in just for the long working lunch (etc) if they have a short-ish commute, some people come into the office for that whole day or half a day to incorporate the meeting – but it’s at the choice of the individual.

      3. Ferret*

        The way our office does it is that we have the option to work the whole day or just half a day on ‘in-office’ days. There are certain meetings we have to attend but otherwise we are free to come and go.

        Most people elect to just stay the whole day but it’s nice that we have the flexibility.

    2. English, not American*

      My workplace has gone with setting “core hours” of 10-3 rather than the previous 9-5 that people are expected to be available, so you can maybe avoid rush hour at either end if you’re going to the office. There’s also a “20%” in-office requirement. I don’t know where the limit is, as I’m told doing 10 weeks of the year in-office then the rest of the year from home is “not in the spirit” of the policy, but it is more flexible than exactly one day per week. I’m planning on four mornings, once the delta variant has subsided more in the area and I’m fully vaccinated.
      The idea is to keep the office as the central hub and maintain the (positive) culture and atmosphere, as well as have all the casual knowledge-sharing chats that improve people’s work despite not really having “collaborative” roles. It’s also not that far from the previous unwritten policy (WFH as much as your manager will agree to, with as many people working a non-standard or part-time work pattern as working the standard 9-5). There are probably some people grumbling but I feel the flexibility easily makes up for the “checking-in” requirement.

      1. Allonge*

        Oh, I like the sound of this 20% thing, and I think it would work for a lot of places. It allows flexibility and still has a meaningful presence in the office for all the things that work better in person.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think these will vary incredibly on circumstances. Personally, I would find both of your examples (going in for only a long lunch and ad hoc instead of regularly-scheduled) to be considerably more burdensome given my work, my schedule and my particular commute.

      I think this underscores why OP needs to think critically about the needs of the work and communicate with her staff.

      OP – have you considered sharing with your staff that you’d like reflections on ideal in-person vs remote working balance? In my experience, even people who prefer remote work are aminable to coming in if they think it meaningfully serves the work/culture/team over the long-term. It might be interesting to get their thoughts on what they would need from in-office days.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        I like this idea- if you’ve got a solid team, ask people to think about what would be easier in the office as a team, versus dictating it from above. I’ve been virtual for 5 years now, but even I could come up with some items that I’d prefer to do in the office, if that was an option for me.

    4. Juniper*

      I’m not sure I agree that having a set day to come into the office feels arbitrary. If one of the main reasons for going back to a partial in-office schedule is to get face-to-face time where brainstorming can happen, issues can get hashed out, and sharing happen, then having people pick that day in response to circumstances could very well defeat the purpose.

      If my employer allowed us to continue to work from home for 80 percent but asked that we come in every Thursday, I would consider that eminently reasonable and flexible.

      1. twocents*

        There was a team on my office (pre-covid) who had to show up once a week, and the big boss did the staff meeting that day.

        People who preferred to work in office could the rest of the week, which was maybe 10% of the team. About half the team still came in at least one other day just to interact with the teams they supported… Which as I type it, means that big orgs will have to think about what other teams are doing too. If you require say 2 days a week, one of your choice to collab with teams you support and none of those teams require in office time at all…

        Yeah, this will definitely be very situational!

        1. Momma Bear*

          I had a job where you were required to attend client meetings in person but other days were negotiable. I also think a standard schedule would be better than ad hoc because then you can count on the people you need to be there vs it not making a positive impact. There would be no point of 2/3 the team was still remote on a day you had a planning meeting or something.

          1. allathian*

            In my org, some teams and some job descriptions have a lot of meetings. I don’t, but most of the rest of my team does. They’ve been mostly virtual for the last 6 or 7 years even before the pandemic, but this does mean that the vast majority of our meetings get scheduled weeks, if not months, in advance. We also have quarterly development and training days, and I vastly prefer doing those in person. I would be very happy to go to the office once a quarter for scheduled days, and then have the option to go in or WFH the rest of the time.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree. For people planning around child/elder care, school schedules (for the kids or for themselves), etc., an ad hoc schedule is far more stressful than having a set specific day to come into the office. If I know what day it is, I can coordinate coverage or schedule around it. I had just been permitted a single telework day per week prior to the pandemic, and I picked the day that was my spouse’s sole in-office day of the week so we could swap off carpool duties. We do not live around family, and I don’t have neighbors I’m close enough to to ask them to assume childcare duties.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Yes. Most daycares require you to commit to the day(s) your child will be there so they can arrange appropriate (and legal) staffing. Better to have a set day.

    5. Techpup*

      +1. My team’s work can be done fully remotely. Since March 2020, almost all of us are WFH fulltime. As restrictions eased, the folks who prefer to work in the office can do so, whether it’s 1x a week or daily, according to their preference.
      The only thing we’re missing is the opportunity to collaborate/brainstorm in person, and the socialization aspect. So we have an in-office meeting every few weeks (the date always announced well in advance) and that seems to do the trick. Aside from the meeting, no “real work” is done that day, but that’s not the point.
      One other thing, make sure to have a specific agenda with items to cover so these meetings doesn’t feel like a waste of time (other than the social aspect).

    6. Andy*

      > Being able to, for example, wake up at their usual work-from-home time, go into the office for a brainstorming session over a long working lunch, and leave in time to collect the kids from school would go over much better.

      In this case, they are either spending what should be work time travelling or are being forced to work in the evening to make up for travelling. My point here is that travelling still eats time, whether personal or on the clock.

      1. English, not American*

        The time of day that that travel takes place can still make a huge difference, though, be it conforming to train timetables (e.g. for transfers to line up, or to use a fast service rather than a stopping service) or lighter traffic on the roads for cars/buses.

        1. Not playing your game anymore*

          Yes. I live a few miles from work in a small city with very light traffic, and even here, I simply cannot arrive at work at 8 AM. My usual commute is 12-15 minutes. (Don’t hate me) If I leave home at 7:45 for an 8 AM start traffic is terrible, for here and it’s usually 8:15 or even 8:20 when I get to work. If I leave at 7:30 I’m at work by 7:42 or so and have 18 minutes to kill. If I leave at 8:10 I can wander in about 8:25. Our former boss cared about such things. You had a 4 minute window to punch in 7:48 – 8:02. Don’t be early, don’t dare be late. Our current “average 40 hours a week, and we’ll expect you no later than…” is much more humane, although the WFH schedule of check your email by 9 and again after lunch was much much nicer.
          I have a job that cannot be done 100% from home. There are coverage issues and actual physical materials that need to be worked with, books, fragile maps, boxes of papers, etc. But I’d love it if we could be a little more flexible about WFH for the things that can be done offsite.

        2. Super Anon For This One*

          The time of day that that travel takes place can still make a huge difference, though, be it conforming to train timetables (e.g. for transfers to line up, or to use a fast service rather than a stopping service) or lighter traffic on the roads for cars/buses.

          And for childcare, which is still a major concern for some folks. If you’ve built your childcare around Schedule X, then converting to Schedule Y on the fly – even if only for a day or two – can be exceptionally disruptive.

          Allowing someone to come in to the office at 9am to accommodate their regular childcare provider drop-off schedule (or traffic, or the morning run they’ve added to their routine that has significantly improved their health, etc.) could make the in office days feel less stressful and more productive for everyone.

          I know I’ve been working from home and going in occasionally as needed, and as the manager I’ve made it clear to my team that when I need them in the office too it’s on a schedule that works with their new work-from-home routine.

          One gentleman likes to get there early and get done so that he’s home when his wife gets off work early afternoon – he takes a break every day at the same time for a walk around the neighborhood with her. Another gets in a little later (around 9am) because he and his teenage daughter started eating breakfast together during CoVID, and if there is no legitimate business reason to disrupt that, why would I?

          I did not have childcare available to me during CoVID, but did have in-person school for some of that time for my youngest. So I wouldn’t get to the office until 9:30 or later, to accommodate the school’s drop off time.

          But: now that I’m working from home I’m at my desk at 6am every day. My lunch break is however long it takes me to microwave leftovers and get back to my desk. My company is accommodating of our personal schedules, sure – but they are getting far more work hours out of me than they used to when my day was bookended by an hour-long commute.

          There are definitely tasks that are better in person (and we have items that MUST be done in person) – but we have found a great middle ground by accommodating employees’ routines, and making in-office days really productive.

          And food. Buying lunch for everyone really brightens the day.

      2. Koalafied*

        Yep! I was 80% remote before the pandemic, and fortunate that my employer was flexible with me about the one day a week I did come in. I would start work at 8 spend about an hour answering emails and handling anything urgent, then leave at 9 to be at the office by 10, and leave at 5 to be home by 6.

        And even while being aware how much I appreciated the flexibility on hours they didn’t have to give me but did, to be honest I still resented the hell out of having to come in at all, and there was nothing more stressful than something relatively urgent arising after I was already in my car and not being able to deal with it for another 45 minutes till I got to the office, went upstairs, and set up my computer. It was still better than having to be there at 9, but missing a full hour from the working day while things are happening, coworkers are active, and customers are expecting timely resolutions to their issues was hard on the nerves sometimes. (I’m not in customer service but I’d say about once a month or so a customer service complaint requires the kind of work I do in order to resolve the problem. And the people who call with a problem at 9 am are often the ones with time-sensitive issues, hence why they didn’t eg wait and use their lunch to call.)

        I guess the bottom line is there’s no magic solution that everyone will be guaranteed to love. I second the suggestion above to ask your team for their input – what do they do better in the office, what kind of in-office hours would they prefer if they did come in, and so on. There’s no magic answer but you can more likely find something everyone can be at least ok with if you survey where they’re at and what they’re looking for first.

        1. Smithy*

          I do think this matters considerably. Rush hour/travel to the office is going to be so geographically specific – and then on top of that the dynamics that can vary amongst colleagues based on those with/without cars and those who live closer to the office or further away.

          Unless the office has been truly toying with full time remote work and you know of staff who have moved a considerable distance from the office (3+ hours away), I don’t believe that asking people into the office 2 times a month is very onerous. But there are still ways to refine it work the best for your team.

    7. Payt*

      Totally agree with #2. Tbh, I would be pretty resentful if mg company allowed us to work from home but my manager wanted me in “just to see my face” and it’d probably send me looking for a new job in the company where the manager didn’t have that requirement. Might be by bias having never worked in the same state or even country as my managers for over 10+ years and several companies, but if she’s a manager at a company that allows WFH opportunities, she needs to adjust her management style to learn how to manage people who aren’t physically there.

      I’d be perfectly fine coming in for special circumstances that needed me there.

    8. Nanani*

      All of this. And “Keeping boss company” is not a valid reason – so dig down in your own reasoning to make sure that’s not what this is really about.

  6. Anonosaurus*

    Oh #2, are you me? I’m currently working my two weeks and I think I’ve cried every day since giving notice. I don’t regret making the decision but I am going to miss my coworkers and the familiar surroundings and culture. I also think change is just hard, even good change. I really don’t think there’s anything weird about how you feel. If there is, I’m the same kind of weird so you’re not alone!

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      I can relate to #2 also. I once left a job I enjoyed because I was recruited for another position with a big salary bump. When I was leaving, they gave me a going away party. Several of my former co-workers have remained my friends. It would have been odd for me not to be sad about saying goodbye. It’s fine to feel that way even while you’re simultaneously looking forward to your next step.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes! There are few things in life that have no enjoyable qualities. And through the lens of nostlagia, even otherwise annoying things (like squeeky doors or an overly-chipper colleague) can take on a endearing sheen.

      This is also why it can be so hard to leave a town that doesn’t hold opportunities for you, or end a relationship that’s not a good fit. But it’s worth it in the end for sure!

    3. Jay*

      I’m lucky enough to contemplating retirement at age 61. I might stay on part-time if they are willing to create a position for me. Since that has to happen with the annual budgeting process and that process starts now, I gave notice two weeks ago, even though I don’t plan to step out of this job until the end of the year. I cried the day I talked to my boss and then again when I told my team – I choked up during both conversations and then flat-0ut sobbed when I was done. I still have waves of grief even though I know absolutely this is the right decision and I’m excited about what comes next. This is the best job I’ve ever had and it’s hard to leave a team I work well with.

    4. JanetM*

      Heck, I got kind of misty when I moved from one group within my department to another (in a different building that’s essentially off-campus). I still miss working with my former coworkers, and am always happy on the rare occasions when I have the chance to stop back in my old building for a meeting.

      NOTE: I love my current job and my current coworkers. But I worked with the other group for about 20 years before changing positions, so a lot of shared history.

    5. JillianNicola*

      Same here – I left big box retail store after 20 years to come to my current admin position last year. Even though I’d been complaining about the entire philosophy of big box retail for years, even though my store had become super toxic the last few months I was there – I bawled like a baby my last day there. It was 20 years of my life, and in retail it’s not just life it’s all of your blood, sweat, and tears. It was a big chunk of my life and it mattered even at the end. It’s definitely not weird!

    6. Qwerty*

      I’m also working through my two week notice! It’s bittersweet – I’m excited for my new job, but still sad to be leaving my team and the familiarity of everything. I have always felt sad leaving a job even if it was for the best. It’s hard walking into the unknown, having to meet new people and learn new processes.

    7. Selina Luna*

      I know what you mean. I felt deeply sad about leaving my first teaching job. I was there for 6 years! I had friends! But I was living alone, seeing my partner only on weekends, and we were starting to want a family… I had two jobs in two years that didn’t work out, but now we’re in a great district together, and we have our family. Still, I cried when I handed in my resignation, and at least weekly (I still had 2 months to go) after that.

    8. Momma Bear*

      I was once told that if you aren’t going to miss your coworkers just a little, you waited too long to leave.

    9. OP #2*

      Thanks so much for the reassurance! It’s nice to know other people go through this as well. I was feeling like such a weirdo in the moment, haha.

  7. ZK*

    LW#2, I just recently left a job that I had loved, until the company got greedy and slashed payroll while increasing duties. I pretty much did a happy dance when I put my notice in, but I did find myself super emotional about leaving work friends and a job I had once enjoyed. To the point of sitting in my vehicle after work on my last day, nearly in tears.

    On the other hand, it’s now been a week since I left and my tension headaches are gone, along with all the stress, so I can’t be too sad anymore.

  8. Norra*

    #3 What bugs me the most is that what other crap have you dealt with in there to make you think, even for a second that your boss’ behavior is ok? If they’ve somehow managed to gat you thinking that they are always right or similar, then I think you have other things going the wrong than just this. Hope you’ll find something different in another company.

  9. Just Asking Questions*

    It sounds as if LW3’s company is renting an office in a Regus type suite. I can’t imagine the other tenants are leaving their doors open to keep track of LW3. They don’t work for LW3’s company and don’t pull a check from it, so why would they waste time on B.S. like that when they have their own jobs to do?

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, that part seemed really weird to me. Have you actually spoken to any of them ? do you have any reason to think that they are keeping their doors open to track you, or tat your boss has asked them to do so? IT seems a very bizarre thing for anyone to agree to.

    2. Venus*

      If it were me, I would be keeping my door open to listen for the angry boss, out of concern for LW3. I definitely wouldn’t care about LW’s schedule.

      1. pancakes*

        I might do the same. Not sure I’d keep it open all the time, though. For a while I worked in a firm where one of “our” floors in the building was shared with another company and it would’ve been really, really weird – talk of the office weird – to get this kind of request from one of them, and I can’t see anyone feeling ok about complying.

        1. Venus*

          My preference is definitely toward keeping the door closed. I just want to reassure the LW that if my door were to be open after a conversation of that type, it would be for LW’s benefit because that boss seems to have some serious issues.

    3. WellRed*

      Yeah I believe the OP thinks this is happening but I can’t imagine total strangers have decided to watch them. More likely the boss is making them a bit paranoid, understandably so.

      1. Nelson*

        I would agree. If some random person came up to me and asked me to watch their employee who I don’t know, I would basically tell them that it’s not my problem and I’m not going to do that.

        1. JustaTech*

          This would be one of the few places where “You’re not the boss of me” might be appropriate.

          This isn’t “can you watch my suitcase for a minute while I use the bathroom” at the airport. This is a boss thinking he has the power to have people who don’t even work for him spy on his employee.

    4. No Ragrets*

      It’s very weird, but LW says that’s what happening, so I don’t think the commenters are in a position to say it’s not. Whether the tenants leaving their doors open *in order to spy on LW* is open to question, of course, but if people were previously keeping their doors closed (which makes a lot of sense given the ongoing pandemic) and are now keeping them open, that is very unsettling given the boss’s request! It makes sense for LW to be deeply concerned and feeling uncomfortable in her workplace now, and it’s not helpful to tell her she’s wrong about what’s occurring or must be misinterpreting it.

      1. Cj*

        LW said “I’m assuming they were asked to keep an eye on me” and they are now keeping their doors open. She said people told her the boss asked them about her daily movements, but does not say they told her boss asked her to keep an eye on her. She is assuming that.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I disagree. You’re correct that we don’t know why these people are leaving their doors open, and I think it is objectively really quite unlikely that OP’s boss has convinced multiple different people from different companies that do not know OP to monitor her comings and goings and report back to him. That’s just not something you can readily persuade people to do. I think it’s far more likely that they’re leaving their doors open for ventilation, or because it’s June and it’s hot, or for some other reason that I haven’t thought of, and the timing is just unfortunate.

        If you’re already on edge about something, it’s really easy to connect every out-of-the-ordinary thing that happens to whatever it is you’re worried about. I understand the “believe the OP” rule is there for a reason but the OP doesn’t seem to know the reason either! And I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage her to assume this unless she has evidence – if she accuses the boss of getting people to spy on her and it turns out that’s not true, she’s going to lose so much credibility.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    LW#3 – your manager’s behaviour is BEYOND weird. Stalkerish behaviour as a management style is just NOT normal.

    I’m half of the opinion that you should bring this up with HR first, and half of the opinion that you should make an appointment to discuss this behaviour with your manager. And not in a “what could I possibly have done to make you distrust me?” way, but in more of a “I perform my job well, hit my targets, have perfect attendance, etc. etc., and yet you’re constantly checking up on me, aren’t okay with me taking my breaks, and now you’ve asked complete strangers in the building to check up on my movements. Why is that?”, followed by “I feel like you don’t respect me or the work I do, and I don’t like being distrusted.” And let him sit with that.

    Then again, it might just be better to look for another job. Nobody needs that kind of paranoia in their life. And perhaps let HR know why you’re leaving on the way out.

    1. Colette*

      A manager looking for their employee at work during work hours is not stalkerish. That’s a really bizarre take.

      1. Cj*

        ^^This. I think we might be getting one side of this and the boss might have reason to be concerned about LW’s availability during the workday.

        1. Colette*

          Or maybe she doesn’t – but it is still her job to know what her employees are doing, and it’s not stalkerish to ask where they are if they’re not at their desk when they should be.

          1. Rayray*

            “If they’re not at their desk when they should be”

            Are we taking about school children? Adults should be able to get up and has the bathroom or take their lunch breaks without supervision (of course some people exceptions but usually not an office manager)

            This person is an office manager and likely has many responsibilities that would require them to be up and about. I don’t know this person’s exact responsibilities but I’m guessing they might do things like tending to files, stocking office supplies, handling mail, and doing work with people throughout the office. This person needs to get their work done and their boss needs to not freak out if they aren’t always immediately available. No harm in asking someone if they’ve seen them, but the boss needs to back off a bit.

            1. Colette*

              The office manager is the only person in the office. If the boss is trying to get in touch with her and she’s not answering, that’s legitimate cause for concern. Of course she should be able to go to the bathroom or go to lunch, but the boss isn’t out of line for investigating if she’s noticed a trend where the office manager isn’t answering the phone or being responsive to emails. Maybe she’ll find there’s no issue; maybe she’ll find that they need to get better aligned on what is required; maybe she’ll find the office manager isn’t in the office when she says she is.

              1. pancakes*

                The details in the letter put this way beyond “trying to get in touch with her”:

                “He snaps at me whenever I don’t answer the phone immediately and is constantly questioning where I am. A few days ago, he showed up to the office while I was at lunch and began questioning me again as to why I wasn’t there. When I came back from lunch, my office neighbors stopped me and said my boss had been there and had asked everyone in our hall about my daily movements.”

                This behavior isn’t normal and isn’t ok.

                1. Colette*

                  There’s a lot of interpretation in that description, though, and how reasonable the boss’s behaviour is depends on whether the OP is working the hours in the office she’s supposed to be working. Did the boss call once, get voicemail, then immediately call back and get the OP, or did he call 5 times over an hour and only get an answer the fifth time? Did the OP excuse not answering the phones with being on lunch when he called at 3:30? Is she always unavailable Friday afternoons?

                  Maybe he’s totally unreasonable; maybe he’s not. We don’t know.

                2. pancakes*

                  We’re supposed to take letter writers here at their word, and there’s nothing to suggest that this one is trying to shirk work, or is un-aware that taking three hour lunches isn’t the norm, etc.

                3. Colette*

                  I believe she’s accurately describing the boss’s behaviour as she sees it. But, for example, she could think it’s fine to take lunch from 2:30 – 3:30, but the boss assumes that she’s taking a 3 hour lunch (as you did). The OP could be doing things that have reasonably alarmed the boss, even though to her they are reasonable – and no one is necessarily the bad guy, it’s just that they’re operating on different assumptions. To use my example above, the OP could think “I can take an hour for lunch whenever it fits into my day” and the boss could be thinking “everyone takes lunch for an hour between 11 and 1”.

                4. Cj*

                  “He snaps at me whenever I don’t answer the phone immediately and is constantly questioning where I am.”

                  Well, where is she that he has to question her? It *is* taking her at her word if you read it that way. She only mentions being at lunch this one time, not that that is why she hasn’t been available at other times.

                  And it is an extremely tiny office, so even if you are correct that she is tending to files, stocking supplies, and handling the mail, it is reasonable to assume that she can still hear the phone, and there is no reason not to stop doing those things to answer the phone. What if it is a client? She should be interrupting those sort of things to answer the phone in case it is, and also because it is apparently important to her boss to be able to reach her if she is actually in the office.

                5. pancakes*

                  Colette, I didn’t assume the letter writer is taking 3-hour lunches; I was using that as an example of bad behavior that we have no reason to believe is happening. If the boss is assuming that someone taking a late lunch simply must have left around noon or so, they’re bad at guessing and bad at communicating their expectations around lunch / core hours.

              2. Esmeralda*

                Yeah, but then it would be more like, boss contacts OP and says, I’m concerned because you’re there by yourself. Boss could leave a voicemail or email or use slack or whatever, stating the same.

                He could say, If you’re going to be out for more than a short while, please leave a note on your desk in case I stop by. If you’re going to be working out of the office part of the day, shoot me an email so I know how to get hold of you.

                But that’s not what he’s doing.

                1. Colette*

                  My point was that the OP is not off doing things for/with other people in the office, because there aren’t other people in the office, and the boss can’t observe her (is she coming in on time and leaving on time, for example) – so when she’s unresponsive, he sees that rather than her good work, even if she’s unresponsive for normal, reasonable reasons.

              3. Observer*

                . If the boss is trying to get in touch with her and she’s not answering, that’s legitimate cause for concern.

                No. It’s only a cause for concern if the boss cannot get an answer for a sustained length of time. The OP is the only one in the office, but that doesn’t meant that they don’t ever get up from their desk, or even have other phone conversations. Never mind lunch time.

                What the OP describes is most definitely not a trend of the OP not being reachable, but a boss who is being unreasonable.

        2. Observer*

          I think we might be getting one side of this and the boss might have reason to be concerned about LW’s availability during the workday.

          Sure, it’s POSSIBLE. But not highly likely. Keep in mind that this is not just the boss asking people “Hey, did you see OP?” but the Boss asking people from other companies about the OP’s daily movements. And flipping out when the OP does not necessarily immediately answering the phone. That’s just NOT a reasonable or realistic expectation. Even people who are working hard and doing their jobs are NOT always going to be able to answer the phone the second it rings.

      2. Rayray*

        It’s not so bad to simply ask someone nearby if they’ve seen so-and-so but it sounds like this case is a little extreme. People should be able to take breaks without having their boss throw a fit over it. The world will not collapse if an office manager takes a break to eat lunch.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Inquiring with neighboring tenants about OP#3’s daily activities is over the top. It’s not the looking for aspect, it’s the intensity and methods.

        1. Rayray*

          Well said.

          I might feel somewhat triggered just because I also had a crazy boss that flip out if I took more than three seconds to drop what I was doing and appear at her desk.

          Really, nothing wrong with a “Hey, have you seen John today?” Or “Oh did Jane leave for lunch?” But this Boss seems to be going a little overboard and needs to dial it down.

      4. Observer*

        Asking employees of other companies about said employee’s whereabouts is odd. Asking about the OP’s daily movements is just bizarre.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Getting weird about OP having lunch, and asking others in the building to look out for certainly is!
        I was stalked by a boss that couldn’t trust me, he sent spies to check up on the time I arrived and left, and called at 5pm when I was supposed to be leaving right then. I had to literally run to get to my son’s daycare on time, so no I wasn’t answering the phone right then.
        They did catch me out once: the Paris metro was on strike and I had to call to say I had no way of getting to the school on time. They said I could go straight to the company I would be teaching at in the afternoon. I went there, it took me two hours on foot. I did what work I could on the computer in the classroom, then waited for my students in the afternoon.
        Nobody showed up at 1pm, then at 2, the one student who did turn up kindly looked at the rest of the schedule. All the other students were either at home that day or far too busy to come for their English lesson because they’d be covering for the colleagues who hadn’t managed to come in. I called the students to check, she was right.

        So I called the boss to ask if I could leave early, because otherwise the daycare manager would have to stay late with my kid.

        She said no, the contract said I’d be there until 5pm.

        It was 3.30pm by then, so I had to leave immediately if I were to get to the daycare on time. I left.
        The next day, the boss came in to warn me that if I did that again, I’d be fired. I told her that if I’d stayed until 5pm, I’d have been two hours late and could have lost my son’s spot at daycare, in which case I’d have to resign without giving notice because I’d be out of pocket if I had to pay for a nanny. So the next time there was a Metro strike, I’d simply refuse to leave my home.
        The fact that I refused to kowtow to her made her livid. I didn’t manage as much as a year in that place. Toxic as hell.

  11. Rosie*

    For #2, I work in a school for children with disabilities and it gets very emotional when staff leave – lots of tears! I think because we work closely together and are very emotionally invested in what we do. So feeling emotional is the norm here!

    1. Jack Straw*

      I was going to comment something similar — I still shed tears over the school I left 9+years ago.

      It was a 100% free-and-reduced-lunch, Title I district with an annual staff turnover of 40-60% (67 out of 102 teachers one year). A co-worker once described the bond of the staff who stayed as being like the bond military members get during war.

      To be clear, it wasn’t like being at war to work there (I loved working there), but the bonds were similar. It’s not for everyone (see: turnover rate), but for those of us who invested and stayed, it created friendships I still have to this day.

  12. Allonge*

    Hi LW1 – one of the best pieces of advice I read about figuring out how we will be working in the future is that you don’t have to make decisions set in stone now. So you can say that you would like everyone to have a day in the office at least once every two weeks, and to do XYZ tasks there. And then you can already plan to revise this in six months or so.

    Obviously this is not an invitation to set up wildly changing rules from one week to the next, but it might make sense to have a trial period, as it were.

    1. Juniper*

      Greta advice! Perhaps they find that the frequency will need to be increased, or perhaps they discover that there really were no productivity or moral gains. In which case it can be easily adjusted back.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, give people plenty of notice, let them know you’re trying to find the right balance, and be very open to their feedback. But many, many people are trying to figure this out right now.

      For example, would it be more useful to have everyone there on one day, or to spread it out in some way as it suits people’s schedules? If the point is in-office interaction, letting each person on a 10-person team pick a day every 2 weeks to come in isn’t going to add very much. But a rigid “everyone come to the office every other Thursday for the staff meeting” may also not feel great, or may not get what you’re looking for in terms of more informal collaboration.

      Other things to keep in mind: what are other departments doing, and how much do people on your team collaborate across the organization? Do you have the tech setup to do effective hybrid meetings (with a few people on a screen on video call and others in the office) or will you end up with everyone joining the video calls separately from their desks in order to include those at home that day and defeat the purpose of coming in? Do you have good tech setups for people to move back and forth easily (external monitors, docking stations, etc. both at home and at the office)? Can you let people stay fully remote until the fall if needed (I arranged summer camp schedules for my kids with the understanding that we’d still be WFH, and I know lots of other people who did, too)? Do you have specific meetings you’d like to do in person? I went in for the first time since March 2020 for my annual performance evaluation, and I thought that was a great conversation to have face-to-face. We’ll probably do the same for the follow-up conversation about goal setting for next year. Would the biggest benefit come from group stuff like staff meetings, or one-on-one checkins, or specific project milestone meetings, etc.?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’d say manage expectations, too. When I’m onsite, between those who want to catch up and/or build rapport, the spontaneous camaraderie that work-from-office advocates cite as an advantage to onsite, and logistics, those days are barely more productive than my PTO days. Many aren’t even that productive.

        1. Allonge*

          That is a fair point and of course totally depends on what productivity means for each org, team and person (not on a spiritual level, but how it’s actually assessed). I have had plenty of days that are full of meetings and it certainly feels like I don’t get anything done – both in-office and WFH.

          And if the measure is number of widgets processed / day, I don’t. But longer term it’s also my job to know how we are processing widgets next year, what are the newest widget-processing regulations and if we are breaking them, and how many widgets we can sell. So in that sense meetings – and talking to people, and doing the administrativia that needs to be done in-house are productive too.

          That does need to be clear for the whole team though, so again, good point.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Another reason for flexibility: your employees’ preferences may evolve, too. “I’m happy being fully remote when on a fully remote team” is different than “I’m happy never going in to the office on a team that averages 20-40% in-person”.

        Some of your employees may genuinely never want to go to the office again! But others may be trying to figure out what they want their new normal to look like, just like you are.

        At my office we’re being asked to state our preferences for the future in terms of amount of time in person versus remote, and it’s really hard. It depends on so many things! Availability of child care, how much other people on my team and across my organization are in person, what IT resources look like… I can guess, but I don’t really want to be held to the answer permanently. We’ll all hit an equilibrium eventually, I’d expect, but it’ll take a while.

    3. Nancy*

      Agree. I also don’t think it is unreasonable to have people come into the office occasionally. Our organization has 3 options: remote, partial remote, onsite. It was made clear that remote workers can and will be expected to come in occasionally, and that onsite people can work from home occasionally. The partial people split the week. Flexible schedules means everyone needs to be flexible.

    4. Sea Anemone*

      A trial period is great! Just make sure that you are clear upfront that it is a trial period and give an end date. You just want to make sure that people don’t start planning their lives around your new policy only to find out that it changes because it was just a trial.

  13. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    OP 4 – I think it’s a courtesy to give your friend a heads-up about your reservations (if you can trust them to be discrete). But it’s 100% not necessary to stay for at least a year. Most companies wouldn’t hold it against them.

    Ironically, if it IS the sort of company that would hold it against her, that’s also the sort of company that would be corrosive to your professional norms. You can’t be the buffer between the world and the unreasonable judgements of unresonable people without sacrificing yourself. It’s definitely not worth it.

  14. Tired*

    LW1, you sound like an awesome, understanding manager. I am sure that your team very much appreciate it.

    I think Alison has given some great advice, too: unless your team really do genuinely need to be in the office, I’d leave it up to the personal preference of the team members you manage. If there’s something like brainstorming or another collaborative task that really does need hands on deck in-person if at all possible, perhaps scheduling them once a month, and well in advance, might be a good middle ground?

    But if it’s solely your own preference, I would leave it up to your team as to if, and when, they want to come in to the office in person, and just make sure you keep touching base with them as and when needed via phone, email, Zoom, text, etc.

  15. LondonLady*

    #LW1 – If you trust your team to work remotely and they prefer that, then that should remain the norm but maybe with monthly in person team meetings.

    Even before COVID most of my team worked remotely (regional outreach officers for a national organisation). A monthly in-person meeting at HQ (with travel costs funded) worked well for us, we would plan other meetings around it, pick up paperwork, optional social drink after work, etc and it made for a very positive and productive day. I’m looking forward to this pattern resuming once our HQ office reopens.

  16. Betteauroan*

    Lw3: I agree with everything the other posters are saying about your boss. He’s done a complete 180 on you that is bizarre and uncalled-for. It looks like he is looking for reasons to fire you. That is my guess and every time a boss has acted that way towards me, my instincts were correct and in one case, I was demoted in favor of the owner’s friend being the new office manager and I would be her admin. No. I quit immediately. I wasn’t playing those games. The other time, the company was in bad financial straights and I was putting two and two together. I later found out the manager who fired me (their reason was I calculated a delivery charge incorrectly by thousands but was given the wrong parameters for calculating, so she set me up) was sleeping with the president. Ended up getting the best job of my life after that betrayal.
    Don’t let this man terrorize you and push you around. Look for another job. Don’t talk to him. He’s gunning for you. The red flags are all there.

    1. Ori*

      Yep. Was bullied by a boss who kept setting me increasingly absurd targets, and getting annoyed when I met them. Never figured out why until after I left, and her daughter was swiftly given my job.

      1. allathian*

        Well, that’s a sign of a dysfunctional organization right there, family members do not manage other family members in a healthy organization, unless it’s literally a family business. And in those, nepotism should be expected.

  17. XF1013*

    OP3: I agree with others that it sounds like something suspicious is going on, but in case it really is just the boss being overly anxious, is it worth trying some kind of system where he can keep track of your whereabouts? You could have a private calendar just for the two of you where you can add 15-minute or 1-hour blocks for when you take a break and aren’t reachable, and he can check that calendar if he wants to know where you are. Years ago, I knew a remote employee who started a Twitter account just to tweet things like “bathroom, 10 minutes” and “picking up kid at school, 20 minutes” whenever he’d be away so that other staff could know when he’s unresponsive. That’s a bit absurd but it might just solve your problem.

    1. Foof*

      No, the answer to this sort of behavior isn’t to cater to it; the problem is that boss is hostile and untrusting of op3 and usually there’s no way to sooth someone like that enough; they’ll just move the goal posts and get suspicious about something else. Being tracked is only reasonable if there’s a major work flow it helps with.

      1. Bostonian*

        I don’t think having a shared calendar to refer to is “catering.” If anything, it can give OP something to point to in their defense. (“I wasn’t here because I was on break, which is indicated in my calendar.”)

        1. pancakes*

          It is if there’s a calendar or communication for every time the letter writer goes to the bathroom.

        2. Observer*

          A shared calendar for BATHROOM BREAKS?! Yeah, that’s catering!

          Also, what happens when the OP need to make a phone call? Do they have to put that on the schedule, too. Are they allowed to take a phone call, or do they have to tell the caller that they need to schedule that too?

          Where does this end? It’s one thing to have a chased schedule for major blocks of time, PTO etc. What @XF1013 is suggesting a calendar where the OP puts things like “going to the bathroom” is just way out of line.

          That is NOT just projection – they actually say that they are basing themselves on this: “Years ago, I knew a remote employee who started a Twitter account just to tweet things like “bathroom, 10 minutes”

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is beyond anxious, though. I mean, yes, some kind of shared calendar with general location information would be helpful, but I doubt this boss would use it. Also, no adult who doesn’t need coverage needs to let anyone know every time she’s in the bathroom.

      I had a boss who traveled frequently and almost always called when I was in the bathroom. I would sit at my desk for hours, finally get up, he would call. We joked about it. If he had reprimanded me for that, I don’t even know how that would have gone down.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. People who have a lot of anxiety very often seem to want to spread it around to everyone in the vicinity, but other people taking some of it on willingly isn’t actually going to help them process (or get some distance from, or learn to manage) their own feelings.

    3. Nanashi*

      From experience, there is no accommodating this behavior, and if anything works, the effect is only temporary. I think the prognosis here is grim.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Whoa there – noting bathroom breaks is a big no for me. When I had a boss stalking me and my colleague, we had to write down everything we were doing, because he couldn’t trust us ever to do anything. We constantly joked that “you forgot to specify your bathroom breaks”.
      And now here we are.

    5. XF1013*

      I wondered if people would get hung up on the bathroom part of my comment. OP3 could write something more modest like “personal break, 15 minutes” or equivalent instead, though with this boss being so invasive, ambiguity might not be tolerated.

      To be clear, I think it’s absurd that OP3 should have to tell the boss where she is at all times, and I said so above. But it sounds like that’s becoming a unavoidable job requirement. I offered my suggestion in the interest of eliminating the nuisance factor, not in making the situation right.

      1. Observer*

        You’re totally missing the point. This is not about “modesty” it’s about the fact that the whole idea is beyond ridiculous. This won’t eliminate the nuisance factor – it’s just going to make it worse. And it’s not just “absurd.” It’s untenable and abusive.

        The idea that a reasonable way to handle abusive requirements is to pander to them is not healthy, to say the least.

        If Alison’s language doesn’t break through to the boss, then it’s time for the OP to start looking for a new job. (And hope they find something before they get driven out.)

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        It’s not the wording, it’s that the whole concept of creating a detailed log of where she is at all times is not going to pacify this guy because he’s already starting from a place of deep suspicion. If she writes “personal break, 15 minutes” he will then start asking why she takes so many personal breaks, why are they so long, where is she going, etc etc, because he already doesn’t trust her. All it will do is give him the impression that she is okay with this level of scrutiny, which she isn’t.

  18. Bookworm*

    #1: Also chiming in to thank you for trying to balance out everyone’s needs/preferences. Maybe this is a good time to consider finding ways to “condense” work to make your together time more productive. Like, are there meetings that maybe could be condensed to one meeting and everyone comes in every two weeks or so on a particular day? Maybe if you have check-ins with staff you can encourage them to come in to have those face to face conversations on a weekly/bi-weekly basis? (Or some other schedule?)

    Like others, I think it can really depend. If people have moved because of the pandemic and their jobs are now remote, this might not be feasible for them. It also might not be useful if you can’t find some way to make it productive–I’ve had jobs that did require an in-person check in or an in-person meeting which I hated because they were not productive periods of time and I did feel it was a waste to commute.

    I do hope you find some sort of balance! Good luck and again: it’s really great you’re willing to consider what other people want/what works for them and not mandating that they come back. Thank you.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    OP, you’re the manager and it’s not unreasonable at all to want people to come in at least a couple days a month. It can help maintain the culture and connections, and you might be tipped off to any issues people might be having that just aren’t apparent when talking to them once a week for some other reason. Use these days for team meetings and anything else that works much better when the team is gathered around the conference room table. Maybe there’s a project you’re working on and it would be easier to work through some of the tasks face-to-face. Maybe there’s a webinar coming up and you can order lunch and all watch it together, which saves money since you’re paying for only one connection rather than nine.

    Although you said the company has given a lot of flexibility around WFH, is there any expectation at all that people will come in X amount of time each month, whether spoken or unspoken? Or is it truly whatever people want to do is what they can do? It doesn’t sound like there’s an expectation, but if there is, then they need to do that. But I think you can be very flexible about when they come in. (The reason I’m asking is because we are now allowed to go hybrid after WFH since last March; however, it was initially an unspoken expectation we’d be in 50% of the month. Thankfully they’ve now put it in writing so we don’t need to play the guessing game anymore.)

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I hate “unspoken” expectations. If management is running a business, then they should state their expectations clearly rather than playing games. It seems that it’s more important to them that employees read their minds or “read between the lines” than it is to accomplish their business objectives.

    2. J.B.*

      Our workgroup has found some things work well from home and others decidedly not. Our big org is leaving it up to the workgroups. We will have a weekly office/meeting day and I will come in a second day each week because it works with my schedule and childcare. I still find it much more flexible than the pre-pandemic 5 days in office expectation.

  20. Juniper*

    LW 1, I think it is entirely reasonable for you to return to sporadic in-office days. You sound flexible and understanding, and based on your letter it seems like you are more than willing to adjust your work style to the group preference of work-from-home. But you are a manager that has to keep other, higher-level objectives in mind, in addition to balancing sometimes competing needs within the team (you mention that you know some of them would be happy never having to come in again, but what about the others?)

    So I think you have grounds here to ask for a small re-calibration without your individual work style necessarily entering into the equation (which Alison addressed in her answer). I’d also argue that just like other work considerations that sometimes have to take priority over personal preferences, expecting a certain amount of in-person time isn’t something that necessarily has to be justified on a case-by-case basis. Very likely the benefits can’t be reduced to measurable outcomes, so as a manager you’ll have to consistently weigh whether or not it’s worth the inconvenience to your employees.

    1. June*

      It’s absolutely ok to ask for work in the office several days a month. No explanation needed.

      1. Juniper*

        Yeah, I’m a little surprised by some of the comments pushing back on this very straight-forward request. I understand that it makes sense for the employer to accommodate employees who have proven that they can work successfully from home. But it’s also not unreasonable to expect a certain amount of face time without making it seem like a huge sacrifice on the part of the employee.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Right. He’d like them to be there 100% and they’d like to be there 0%. Asking for 5-10% seems more than reasonable to me. Once or twice a month! Even I wouldn’t grumble about that and I’m a staunch WFH advocate. I’m super unproductive in any office that isn’t in my house, but would see the value in coming in for team sessions like that.

          1. Juniper*

            That’s a really good way of framing it. Looking at it that way10 percent isn’t even remotely a “fair” compromise, though it seems smart not to push for much more at this time.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I appreciate the explanations on things like these, but that’s definitely the spoonful of sugar to go along with the medicine, not a requirement.

    2. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Obviously, The Other Dawn, Juniper, June, and I (and possibly others) are in the minority. All pre-covid and long before WFH was even a thing (2004-2010): At a previous job, even though my co-workers and I lived all over the country (USA), we still had an “in person” day a 2 to 3 times a year (at company expense). I don’t think twice a month is unreasonable even if it is just LW#1’s preference. As others have said, working in person can build teams. I know it helped with us.

      1. allathian*

        All expenses paid days at the office are a different thing entirely. My governmental org has more than 30 regional offices all over the country (not in the US). I work in a distributed team, most of my team is at HQ but several are in regional offices, as is my current boss. When our quarterly in-person development days resume, presumably in the fall, the people in the regional office will come to HQ, on expenses and per diem.

  21. NopityNope*

    OP #2, not the least bit weird to feel emotional about leaving a job! A couple of years ago my team’s and my role changed so drastically that I knew it was time to go. I asked to be laid off (sweet severance package), and it took months for my (wonderful!) boss to make that happen. So I knew it was coming, and did a literal happy dance when my boss informally confirmed it, as it was taking me into early retirement. I was so ready and so excited to be getting on with the next great stage of life. Still, in the meeting with HR where I was officially let go, I got very emotional. They offered me the rest of the day off to “process” (HR didn’t know it was something I very much wanted), and I took it because I was so gobsmacked by unexpected feelings.

    Leaving something you’re familiar with, especially if there are people you enjoy being around, can definitely be emotional, even if you are excited by what you’re moving toward. So OP, you just feel your feelings and then go rock your new role!

  22. Workerbee*

    #1 I wouldn’t require or request people to come in just for me; I wasn’t sure if by “working better,” you meant that you feel better and personally more productive yourself with the typical hum of office activity and presence, or that you do indeed find benefit in ad hoc, in-person collaboration.*

    But why not wait and see? Sounds like you aren’t sure that all of your team will want to remain at home, and some might surprise you. I wouldn’t drag in people once a week or even once a month. Remote people have their own schedules and rhythms, and from where I sit, the thought of a long working lunch just sounds tedious and robbing me of my legit break time. Once a quarter, eh, if there’s a darn good reason. But that’s me. The real question is, can you continue to thrive in a position where you may well be managing a full remote team for good?

    *And true ad hoc collaboration wouldn’t be an easy thing to predict happening. If the answer is “it happens all the time!”, well, I’m one of those who existed in an open, ad hoc environment pre-pandemic, and it boiled down to constant interruption with people’s Big Ideas that took up hours of time and ultimately led nowhere nearly 100% of the time. With Teams enabled, now we can noodle with a colleague or two, hash out an idea, and then call in others if we find it necessary, rather than involving the whole team from the get-go. Your mileage may vary.

    #3 A boss who thinks it’s justified to claim not to understand that a lunch break = person might just have stepped out, along with the other behavior and decisions, is a boss you needn’t waste your time with. I don’t think those types can be fixed. Time better spent looking elsewhere.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I’m one of those who existed in an open, ad hoc environment pre-pandemic, and it boiled down to constant interruption with people’s Big Ideas that took up hours of time and ultimately led nowhere nearly 100% of the time.

      Thank you, I’m the same way! I previously worked in an open-space where there would be spontaneous discussions that would suddenly pull me away from what I was focusing on at the moment, and what it usually amounted to could have just been an email/scheduled meeting at a later date. Even meetings that were planned and had to be held in the open space would sometimes get crashed by someone overhearing a little snippet of something pertaining to them and thinking they needed to be part of the meeting (they didn’t) and suddenly it was derailed by what they wanted to talk about and went on longer than it needed to to begin with. Working from home I’m better able to concentrate on my individual tasks and I feel like our Zoom meetings are more clearly focused (obviously there tends to be some momentary derailing).

      Obviously, my experience is not all experiences, and I know there are offices/teams that truly do function better with that dynamic, but I think people tend to put too much stock in the idea of in-person, spontaneous brainstorming.

  23. HigherEdAdminista*

    OP #2- When I left my retail job for my first job post-college, I burst into tears in the manager’s office when I had to break the news. As far as retail jobs go, it wasn’t a bad one, but I was eager to move on to the next steps; it was just an emotional thing to be closing the door!

  24. Nicole Stamas*

    LW 1, please consider this. Your employees adapted to help guide your company through a pandemic, continued to give you the quality of work you were used to, and did it all despite a total upheaval of their work and personal lives. The least you can do to thank them as an employer is allow them to work in the environment they most prefer.

    1. Allonge*

      So, all other things being equal, this is a nice sentiment.

      Managers however have to consider, e.g.
      – is it possible to onboard new staff WFH and how
      – what procedures need to be changed and what is the cost for that
      – when will this lead to a complete loss of any office space assigned to the team
      – preferences of others in the organization and those of clients
      and probably a ton of others around longer term sustainability and effects of WFH.
      The ‘least you can do’ is really a set of major changes in the way this team and the larger organisation will work in the future.

      So it’s a pretty big thing, all in all. Which is not an automatic ‘all back to the office all the time’! But let’s not say it’s the same as getting a gift card for all as a reward.

      1. Nicole Stamas*

        My response is in regards to the possibility of the only issue being the letter writer’s personal preference.

        1. Allonge*

          You are right that that is the question OP asked. I suppose I am just finding it really difficult to believe that for any manager the only consideration could be ‘what would make us mutually the happiest’.

      2. three nineteen*

        – is it possible to onboard new staff WFH and how
        Yes, it is. Same way that companies did pre-pandemic for remote roles. Depending on the role, the person may only need to come in to the office very briefly during onboarding, to sign a contract or as a formality to meet everyone. A lot of training can be done online, including via video conferencing.

        – what procedures need to be changed and what is the cost for that
        Most of these have likely already been done during the pandemic closedowns, and a lot of it is not particularly complicated. There may be further finessing required.

        – when will this lead to a complete loss of any office space assigned to the team
        You mean if it hasn’t already? A big problem the pandemic has exposed is employers of all sizes cutting corners for decades now by using badly-designed, but very cheap, open-plan offices with hot desking etc.

        – preferences of others in the organization and those of clients
        This goes back to LW1’s letter, and the issues raised within it. If Jane and John thrive on in-office work, and Sally and Saul thrive on WFH, and all are very productive working in their preferred environments but none of them actually have to be in the office in order to perform their work, it is not Sally and Saul’s responsibility to provide Jane and John with company or social interaction or whatever else. If a client wants and needs to see Sally or Saul in person one day for a specific reason, Sally or Saul can organise that in advance.

  25. Philly Redhead*

    Related to #1, but not directed at the OP:

    I’m curious how other parents are going to plan childcare, particularly for school age children, when their employers require a day or two in the office every one to two weeks, especially if those days won’t always be the same day of the week.

    My son’s school offers after-care, but there’s no “part-time” or drop-in option. Right now this is hypothetical for me, as I haven’t been told whether or not I’ll have to go back into the office or not in September.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I’m guessing for a lot of people it’ll be a frustrating scramble to arrange care. Some people will find a nice rhythm of trading off with other families in the neighborhood, or find a local teenager with good after-school availability, but it’ll certainly be a headache for many. I expect to be in the office often enough that we’ll just pay for aftercare even if we only use it 75% of the days, and our after care program is awesome and has part-time and drop-in options, but it’s a real issue.

      Ensuring that people’s in-office days are predictable and have plenty of notice can help – if it’s every Thursday or every other Thursday it’s easier to arrange child care.

      And to those who will inevitably chime in with “but you can’t WFH and care for kids at the same time!”, it really depends on the situation. Plenty of people can pick their 8 year old up at 3:30 after school and then have the kid amuse themselves while you work for another 1.5-2 hours. It’s not at all the same as trying to work from home and care for a 3 year old at the same time.

      1. Philly Redhead*

        Yeah, that’s why I specified school age. My son is 9.5, and can keep himself occupied most of the time — he just needs help with meals and snacks (can’t reach the microwave, or the cupboard where we keep the dishware).

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Even 3-year olds vary. Some are perfectly content to play with blocks/bricks/dolls/etc or watch PBS Kids for an hour or two at a time.

        An inquisitive 3-year old is also a fantastic trainer to get an employee used to locking the workstation for even a moment’s absence, like the restroom or coffee.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Although my team will have a rotating schedule where the in-office days will change each month (it was their preference), the people with kids are going to work set days, which is perfectly fine.

      1. Allonge*

        That was the first request from parents on my team too and it’s perfectly reasonable.

        Honestly, even as someone who lives alone (and certainly as a manager who needs to keep track of who is where) I prefer having a somewhat set schedule and not a forever changing one, so it’s really not that outrageous a request in a lot of places.

        1. allathian*

          Indeed, although I do hope that even so the schedule is flexible enough to let people swap in-office days or WFH instead of coming to the office if they’re feeling a bit under the weather but still able to WFH, rather than force them to take PTO.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had a somewhat related question, so am going to post it under your comment. At my workplace, when we went to fulltime remote work, we were invited to stop by the office and take what we needed from our workstations. I took my docking station/hub and my ergo chair. Many people took their monitors, keyboards etc. Obviously, people cannot bring all of that back in with them when they come into the office part-time. What would the process need to be for making sure they have a work space setup both in the office and at home? Hotdesking? (but that won’t work if everyone has to come in on the same days?) Would the work be willing to pay for second sets of chairs, monitors and so on? I cannot imagine telling the employees to buy a second set of all those things with their own money. Many won’t be able to afford all of it even if they’d agree with the arrangement in theory. I would love to be able to come in 1-2/month myself, I just cannot figure out the logistics of it.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        My office is going to provide tech for both home and the office, it looks like – docking stations, monitors, peripherals in both places. But for desk chairs you’re on your own. Not sure why that’s the line, but it is. I’m guessing there will be some negotiation around chairs and standing desks over time, especially for those with health needs.

        This kind of thing makes a big difference. For various reasons my in-office tech setup isn’t as good as my home one at the moment, and it’s a major limiting factor on how much time I want to spend at the office.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        At our company, we were in-office before the pandemic with people like managers and a few certain exempt people, being allowed WFH occasionally. Those people have a laptop that travels back and forth. They also have all the tech, like the docking station and monitors, in the office. Plus the usual office furniture. That’s paid by the company.

        With hybrid now, anyone who wants it has to set up their home office at their expense, as the company isn’t paying to have two setups for hybrid people. While the previous people I mentioned will have all their company-provided tech in the office and can bring the laptop back and forth, they’d still have to pay for anything else they’d use at home to make it work.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          See, it took me all day to figure out why I read your comment and instinctively felt it would not work for OP’s situation. If a manager said to me “can you come in once every 1-2 weeks?”, I’d be “of course!” But if they followed that up with “and you’ve got to bring all your work equipment that you took out of the office, back in, and since you are still remote most of the time, it’s your responsibility to buy the same work equipment for your home office with your own money…” I personally wouldn’t start looking, because, like in Guacamole Bob’s case, my home office setup is already pretty great, and my pay is good enough (and I finally for the first time in 20+ years, do not have dependents, and could swing a hub and a chair out of my pocket – plus, that’d mean I get to keep my entire home office setup if I do change jobs). But a lot of people would be put in a tough situation with this request. My company isn’t paying for two setups either. They are just having us stay at home, and made it clear that, if we have to come in for a day, it wouldn’t be for full-blown work, but rather for all-hands meetings and such, so we’d get by with just our laptops. If that’s what OP1 has in mind, then that’ll work. If it’s like what your company does, then I truly don’t know.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Adding to this, I had the same “traveling laptop” setup as your exempt people at every job I’ve had in the last 20 years; as did all my teammates. The reason being that, one of the jobs, we were on call and were expected to do work from home in 1-2-hour chunks as needed on the nights and weekends that we were on call. And the rest of the jobs, including my current one, we were expected to be able to log in from home in case of a work emergency. It happened very infrequently, but it did happen. Like in your case, we were on our own for the rest of our work-from-home setup. I worked on a lot of my night/weekend calls from my kitchen table. But that was when we weren’t doing it fulltime (and to me fulltime with the exception of 1-2 days a month is still fulltime).

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Surely on a ‘macro’ level the childcare providers will be able to offer more flexibility around this, because it’s not just one individual customer who has this changed schedule but a lot of their customers. So also the childcare providers will be at “less than capacity” on average because (e.g.) 20% of their customers need the service on a Monday, 30% need it on a Tuesday, or whatever.

    5. Cj*

      Most companies require WFH to have daycare while they are doing so. Obviously that most often was impossible during the height of the pandemic, but is should be possible now.

      I know that daycare is harder to find now because many have closed or are understaffed, but that is true for all parents in need of daycare, not just ones that WFH.

      1. Overeducated*

        The question is about school age child care, which is a bit of a different situation.

    6. Overeducated*

      For me that’s the difference between looking for an after school babysitter and daily aftercare. My office hasn’t announced plans yet so I’m not signing up for after care, and crossing my fingers that the “30 days notice” we get won’t be after slots have filled for the year.

      1. Overeducated*

        (That said, my current work schedule is early, so I’m done my day when school ends on WFH days, and we live just a few blocks from the elementary school, high school, and a college. So an afternoon babysitter a couple days a week seems quite feasible – a responsible 18 year old could certainly pick up my kid at school, let her play on the playground with friends for an hour, and then walk home for a snack and wait for me to get home. Wouldn’t work for everyone.)

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          This goes to the question of how predictable the WFH is and how much notice you get. Arranging for a college student to do pickup every Tuesday is one thing, but finding out at 3 p.m. that there’s something being schedule that you have to go in to the office for the next day is quite another. Even knowing ahead of time, having to go in Tuesday this week, next Friday, nothing the following week but both Monday and Tuesday the week after would be challenging – you’d need multiple backup sitters to ensure availability and coverage.

          OP needs to talk to her employees, because people’s circumstances vary so widely. Some people have easy drop-in or ad hoc child care options (neighbors, friends, family) and some really don’t. Some have special needs kids, spouses with more or less flexible schedules, etc. Plus the whole universe of non-kid schedule considerations – recurring medical appointments, classes, other caregiving, etc. People may really value the ability to sign up for a rec soccer league that has practice starting at 5 p.m. and want to never have to go in to the office on practice days, and if the office is 90% remote that seems like the sort of thing where minor adjustments to OP’s approach to scheduling can really impact morale.

  26. SwampWitch185*

    For #3: I worked from home for a startup and nope, no, not okay. Bad. Definitely follow Allison’s advice and check in with him. I hit a point in working for a startup where everything that went wrong, from them not having done marker research, to them hiring family and more was blamed on me when it went wrong. Not cool, not normal.

  27. Lacey*

    It’s not weird to be emotional about resigning. I had a three year job hunt before leaving one job – it was just a terrible market for the type of work I do – and when I finally got out I was thrilled… and also really sad!

  28. Cj*

    Alison said: If your boss has concerns about where you are or if you’re being as productive as he wants you to, he should raise his concerns with you directly

    LW said: A few days ago, he showed up to the office while I was at lunch and began questioning me again as to why I wasn’t there.

    It should to me like he has raised his concerns about where she is directly with her. Asking random people to keep an eye on her is really out of line, and of course she is allowed to go to lunch. But why isn’t she answering the phone immediately (if not at lunch)? Is she on the line with clients when he calls? Has she explained that to the boss if that’s the case? If she can’t answer right away, is she returning his calls promptly?

    It sounds like she really doesn’t want to be there all day – is that coming across in her attitude to the boss? Since he is constantly questioning where she is, what is her answer?

    Productivity as an office manager includes promptly answering the phone – are clients also not getting an answer when they call? (Again, I’m not talking about when she’s at lunch).

    1. Esmeralda*

      Why isn’t she answering the phone immediately?
      * In the bathroom
      * Grabbing a coffee
      * Filing
      * Printing
      * Accepting packages from postal service and delivery service
      * Already on the phone with other employees, clients, suppliers, etc etc
      * Any one of the 12 million tasks away from the phone that our office manager/admin does for us while we are mostly out of the office and I have no idea what they are unless I happen to see her doing it. Blessings upon her, she makes everyone’s life easier and it’s too bad some of my colleagues think she’s slacking because she doesn’t pick up the phone on the first ring when they call with some dumbass question they could have answered by looking at our conveniently online policies manual.

      1. Cj*

        If you are filing, you stop to answer the phone.

        If you are printing, you can answer the phone.

        If you are doing one of those other things, you call your boss back as soon as you are done. (If she is doing that, and he is still snapping at her about it, he is out of line. He shouldn’t be “snapping” in any case, but if he consistently can’t reach her and she doesn’t get back to him, he is no doubt frustrated).

        If she was only in the office a couple hours a day previously, it doubtful that she has that many tasks away from her desk that would preventing her from at least getting back to him promptly. In fact, she doesn’t think she needs to be in the office all day, so there can’t be that much to do that keeps her away from her desk.

        If he is constantly asking her where she is, what is her answer? If it is a reasonable answer like lunch, phone with client, and he still gets upset, he is being unreasonable.

        He was out of line to ask others in the building about her daily movements, but I sincerely doubt they are keeping track of her now, even if he asked them too.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          If you are filing, you stop to answer the phone.

          If you are printing, you can answer the phone.

          It depends on where you’re doing those things. I have worked in an office where I needed to go to another floor to file things, and in another office where the printer was in a different part of the building.

          1. Cj*

            “We have a very small office, just a room in a large suite that we rent. It’s only big enough for one person, maybe two.”

    2. pancakes*

      Not all jobs involve answering client phone calls. The first sentence of the letter says this person’s work focus is “mostly on financials,” and in a comment they said, “The only thing that arrives here is mail. We aren’t a customer facing company.” I hope you will try to take a step back and ask yourself why it makes so much sense to you that an overbearing and intrusive boss must be onto something.

  29. Referrer*

    #4 I referred a friend (I was straightforward that I had never worked with him, only knew him socially) and he left in a flaming huff of unprofessionalism less than a month later. Then he sued the company. I don’t think anyone ever brought it up or mentioned it to me unless I brought it up. I still work at the company but the friend dumped me a couple years later because I didn’t quit in solidarity with him.

  30. goaskalice*

    #3 my boss has been known to get antsy when she can’t reach me at all times. Like, when I’ve gone to the actual bathroom.
    Or, to the kitchen to grab my lunch… Not even going off site.
    I often keep my phone on silent cause I work in media and notifications are a hazard and she takes it like a personal insult. I literally never take more than 4 minutes to return calls I miss, and as I said, only miss them when I am taking care of my bodily functions. But she’s super intense. Go figure. I keep pushing back cause boundaries, but sheesh.

      1. allathian*

        I would be tempted to answer from the bathroom and let her hear the flush, if nothing else…

  31. Jennifer Strange*

    OP2 – A few years back I was in a job that had become overwhelming for me. I was stretched way too thin, had almost zero work-life balance, and my supervisor was less than helpful in guiding me through it. I was relieved when I finally got a job elsewhere that better fit what I wanted to be doing. But you know, on my last day, I still teared up a bit. Even though the job had become something of a nightmare, I had still put in a lot of time there and did have some genuinely fond memories of it (not to mention people I considered friends). So there’s nothing weird about feeling attached to a job and emotional about leaving.

    And remember, moving to a new company is a BIG THING. It’s like graduating from high school and moving on to college; even though you’re probably excited about it, you’re also probably a bit daunted as well because you’re going to be the new person, you’re going to have to learn new names, new procedures, new tasks. There was a certain level of comfort you had at your old job that you won’t immediately have at this new one – but you’ll get there!

    Best of luck!

    1. Sunshine*

      Thanks Jennifer strange and letter 2. I am going through the same. My last day is next week. It’s a job I’ve set as a goal for a long time. I was actually talking to my therapist about it yesterday. And honestly Jennifer, your response was far more helpful. :) I’m really grateful for this space and the collective wisdom and support.

  32. Not So Super-visor*

    I really relate to LW#1 — I work best when I am physically in the presence of people. As a supervisor, I know that’s a ME thing though and not everyone’s personal preference. I’ve really had to go to bat for my team to get them remote in the first place and try to keep them remote. While they’ve been remote, I’ve really tried to build connections via Teams meetings, but it just hasn’t been the same for me. I can honestly say that I fought my best for them to keep them remote despite it not being my personal preference — showing metrics to prove that we work just as well remotely, providing team member testimonials, etc, but VP has declared that we will all be back in the office after Labor Day. While I’m personally a little relieved, I know that a lot of my team members are very upset, and we’ve already had one resignation over it.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    This is the great debate about work right now! That said, I think the thing for your team is to find the ideal balance between WFH and F2F. I keep saying that ‘the office is for meetings and not for working’ for a lot of people now. It would be perfectly reasonable to have an “all hands” meeting 1x per week or 1x every other week where everyone does come into the office for their team meeting and/or for their one-to-ones with you. Of course, if people want to come in more often, that’s also fine–I’m assuming the office is there to be used when needed. Does your team all live within a reasonable distance from the office? That is another consideration, because if your team are dispersed across the country it would be weird to only make the other half that live close to the office come in (this is precisely what my company was doing pre-Pandemic and I hated it). I think the key here is to think of the office as being a place to have some regular, undivided time for meetings, whether that means a half day or whole day on occasion, and then plan for that accordingly in a reasonable manner.

    It’s totally normal to feel emotional about resigning from a job. I didn’t want to leave my job at my previous employer, but felt I had to leave because of an office move to a big city , lack of WFH option, and what was just too many changes with management.

    Your boss is mistrustful when you’ve shown no reason to not be trusted. I’ve had that boss. It’s unlikely you can change them. This type is nearly always of the mindset that employees are somehow “slacking off” and thus stealing time from them. You can try to reason with the boss, and maybe they’ll be reassured, but good luck.

    It shouldn’t hurt your friend if you leave in a professional manner unless the company is somehow very punitive or unreasonable. Sometimes things aren’t a good fit, and you may not have been able to know that going through the interview process. It happens.

    It sucks, but yes. Welcome to the state of unfair pay in America.

    1. JM in England*


      Remember Alison’s adage “Your boss sucks and is unlikely to change”……

  34. Anon5183*

    For #5, my last employer used to do that. They’d close early for holidays, we’d have the option of applying PTO, taking it unpaid or making up the hours (usually only 2-3). Their attitude is “be grateful we’re giving you the choice.” They never saw how it wasn’t exactly great for morale.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That reminds me of a former boss who claimed the company got holidays that happened to fall on a weekend–for example, this year’s July 4th is a company’s holiday and he doesn’t close on Friday or Monday to observe it. He couldn’t see the impact on morale, either.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Welcome to the world of employees at state universities, who “get” a whole week off around Christmas, campus is closed and the heat is off, but have to use PTO for several of those days, and no, you can’t work those days even if you are around and have the time.

      LOL, when I put in my PTO for those days, under reason I put “(name of university system) stealing my vacation hours”. Fortunately my bosses have always just approved it without comment.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        Ugh, that’s awful! I also work at a state university. We close for 2 weeks around Christmas, but we get those as vacation days and don’t need to use PTO.

  35. Orange Crushed*

    #3- I have the same boss right now. She doesn’t trust anyone. I hated working from home because she would call me at random times as if she was trying to catch me slacking off or what not. One time she even called my house phone and my Dad answered. (My parents were staying with us at the time. They had a nice conversation, lol.)

    She also gets other workers to check up on me. If I call out sick or take a day off, she has the assistant manager find out what the reason is or if there is other stuff going on.

    I’m not perfect, but I’m a hard worker and a good worker. Other people in different departments have commended me for the work that I do. (I just wish that my boss would do the same…)

    1. Nanashi*

      May I recommend getting out of there when you can? My boss had zero complaints and much praise about my workload or productivity, but butt-in-seat seemed much more important to him than anything else, and “why have your hands stopped for three minutes?” I’m a freaking adult twenty years into my career! My work involves reading long chunks of texts, too! You have promoted me twice in two years! To put it succinctly, WTF?! There is no hope.

    2. Rayray*

      Is she related to Dwight Schrute?

      It also reminds me of a letter last spring or summer where a boss sent a friend to ride their bike around the neighborhood and peak in windows. The friend reported that the LW was watching tv while they worked so LW’s boss called.

  36. glitter writer*

    LW2, I still feel emotional about a job I quit last year. It was a similar situation: it was honestly a dream job and I was very happy there, but another company in the field recruited me personally and came to me with an offer I couldn’t refuse (a promotion and a $40K increase in annual pay above what I was making). I loved my old job and regret having had to move on, but I love my new job too, and when the time eventually comes in months or years to move on from it, I’ll feel badly about that too. It’s one of those bittersweet things that life is just made of, like graduating from college and moving on from that life.

  37. Allypopx*

    I really appreciate the answer to #2. I’m having big feels about leaving my job and getting a lot of people telling me things like “it’s just a job they wouldn’t think twice about letting you go!” which a) is untrue and b) I still have my feelings! Even when it’s right it’s hard

    1. katertot*

      Yes!! I was super emotional when leaving my last job- it was 100% the right decision, but I was leaving a great boss who had been fantastic and I got very emotional when giving my notice and then on my final day. I still miss seeing that team every day even though there were tough parts of that job.

  38. AJR*

    LW2 – that feeling of loss after leaving a job is something I’ve been really struggling a lot with this past year – I thought it would dissipate but it’s been weirdly persistent, even after the job I left made me so miserable and the job I have now is plainly so much better.

    My old job was a fraught emotional experience. The first three months were the best job I ever had: I had moved back home after graduate school and was working in an institution that served my hometown region, with a lot of access to the leadership of the organization. I thought I was starting a new life there. I felt very attached to my boss, and admired and respected her tremendously, and identified with certain elements of her life story. But she kind of cut me 0ff (I think what happened is that she got too busy to manage me), I didn’t have any teammates to help advise me on work, I worked alone in the building and constantly had to move offices, and eventually the isolation in a volatile atmosphere made me depressed and crying every week.

    After a year and a half, I quit that job and started a new one in May of last year when an old boss called me up and asked me to work for him. This necessitated a move away from my hometown back to the city during the middle of the pandemic. The new job is better in every respect: better pay, supportive team, dynamic organization. I worked from home for the first year of this new job, but couldn’t stop myself constantly thinking about my old job and my old boss. Things have gotten better since coming back into the office, but that old job is still is always at the top of my mind.

    I definitely don’t feel regret at my choice to leave. I think I might be mourning the possibility of what could have been – but a year is a long time for this emotional hangover to persist. Does anyone have advice on how to stop this constant rumination?

    1. WFH with Cat*

      I think you may be mourning the loss of what you thought you would have on that job — the closeness to your boss, access to leadership, a return to your hometown — as well as experiencing the stress of the moves from the city to your hometown and back to the city. Moves are big stressors! So is feeling like you didn’t “succeed” in a job. Also, it’s very likely that you weren’t really able to mourn all those losses at the time, because you were dealing with changes on the job, a lack of support, a lack of teammates, plus the constant moving office to office.

      In short, you’ve been dealing with a LOT of changes and may be feeling the cumulative effect. Even if you’re in a much better place now, you may have to deal with the old stuff to let it go. If your current company has an EAP, it might be useful to talk to a third-party who can help you sort thru and process all the changes and upsets you’ve been dealing with.

      Best of luck.

      1. AJR*

        Thank you for the kind response. I started seeing a counselor virtually when I was still at my old job to try to stop feeling so depressed and anxious (I tried everything to fix that situation!). It wound up being perversely lucky I made that arrangement, because I was able to use her services over everything that happened in 2020 too. I just can’t figure out why the emotional hangover from the old job has taken so long to dissipate (over a year, almost a longer time than I was even in that job!).

        1. Retired(but not really)*

          As you can see from my user name I’m retired from my former job. I was there 19 years. The last 3-4 years I was part time as I elected to take early Social Security benefits, coupled with the downturn in the local economy at that point. It has now been over 10 years and I occasionally still really miss that job and the people I worked with.
          So don’t feel like it’s strange to miss your previous job and your friends there. I even still miss friends (and the location) from my very first job over 50 years ago!

  39. Captain of the No Fun Department*

    LW#1 I am a person who has been working at home since March 2020 and I intend to stay working at home. I am senior level in my org. While I enjoy working from home and would never willingly choose to work in the office, I always find myself happy when I am required to be there. I think it is a nice balance to being required to be there all the time and not ever working face to face with my coworkers. Usually once every other month my boss will set an in person meeting and I set up an in person working session with my team at about the same frequency though I always confirm the plan with them first. Knowing we can work where we want most of the time makes being required to be somewhere occasionally nowhere near a hardship. My team always expresses that it was nice working together for a change of pace before we head back to our remote work. I think the key is to talk to your team and ask if they’re okay with one in person working session occasionally and then confirm the cadence with them as well. While people may prefer working from home, having the opportunity to connect with your colleagues can be a really welcome change of pace that you didn’t even realize you needed.

  40. pretzelgirl*

    LW2- I still have mixed feelings about leaving my previous job. At the time it was job that provided great flexibility, amazing co-workers who shared similar values and world views. Opportunity to really advance my career. But… I was the only one that could do my job, it was a very small company that was failing financially. I left for a maternity leave and came back to 3 months worth of work that had to be finished. A team that could offer no help, when I was stuck on something. I actually had to pay consultants to help me, bc I was truly lost. A time in which were not able to be paid bc the company had no money. Even though all these terrible things happened I still felt torn. My co-workers, were truly my friends. We had fun everyday. But I couldn’t take the instability of the company. I also couldn’t handle the fact that if something went wrong, I would have no idea how to fix it and the whole place would crumble. So I left. It was the best thing that has happened for my career. I think its normal to feel this way. After all most of us spend nearly our whole week some where. With people making connections and maybe doing important work. Its ok to grieve the loss of a former job.

  41. VanLH*

    LW3: Your boss has gone off the deep end with you. For whatever reason, they do not trust you at all. Asking people who don’t work for your company to keep an eye on you? That is beyond the pale. Go home tonight and work on your resume with complete urgency. Get out as soon as possible.

  42. Observer*

    #3- Have that conversation that Alison recommends, but know that in all likelihood you won’t get anything useful from it. If you boss does get a clue and changes his behavior that’s great. But if nothing changes, understand that it is not going to change, no matter what you do.

    We had one manager who was something like this. Now, this was one manager in a larger organization, but she simply did not have the tools to manage people. On a personal level, she was nice. People in other organizations who had to work with her loved her, because she was really good at what she did, was responsive and accurate and you pretty much knew that if she said “we’re going to do X” that’s what happened.

    But when the program grew to require an assistant, things did NOT go well. She had a weird mixture of micromanaging and leaving someone TOO much to their own devices. Worse, was this issues of expecting to know where someone is every second of the day. Now, when you and your boss / employee are in one office, you get a sense of what’s going on just by picking up your head, more or less. But if you are not in the same office, you just can’t have that. She just couldn’t wrap her head around this, and it caused a lot of problems.

    The issue finally fully resolved when she left the organization. She left on good terms – her life circumstances changed and she moved on. Last I saw she was doing something TOTALLY different and I’m pretty sure she didn’t have any employees. Which is a good thing. Because she nearly drove two employees to quit. One left for unrelated reasons and her replacement was reaching the end of her tether when Supervisor left.

    The irony of the situation with the first employee is that there were some genuine problems that were being exacerbated by the micromanaging and accusations (both implied and explicit). The employee did her work, but there were the occasional coverage issues. But when there is a list of 15 “problems”, 14 of which are look like “I called you at 10:03 on Monday and you didn’t answer the phone” (call log shows employee was on the phone with a client), “I called you 4 minutes ago. Where were you?!” (In the bathroom), “I called you are 4:59 on Thursday and yo didn’t answer the phone” (Call log shows that call was actually 5:12 – your clock was wrong) and ONE complaint is “You left at 4:00 on Wednesday and a couple of clients called and were upset that there was no one take the call” (legitimate complaint!) the legitimate complaint gets lost in the noise. Especially when the legitimate stuff was not that common – and the main thing that this person needed was some guidance and explanation. But she wasn’t getting that. Instead she was getting so much nit picking about things that were either inconsequential or not even a problem, that she never realized what the genuine problem was.

    When someone (from a different department) who was sympathetic to her pointed out that coverage was an important part of her job and explained why, the problem mostly resolved itself. She had been coming from a framework of “if I get my work done, what does it matter?” (which is what had been the case in prior jobs) and she WAS getting her work done. What she didn’t realize that she also needed to cover the phones for her department and that this REALLY did matter. But you would not have known that from the volume of complaints coming from the supervisor.

  43. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP2 – I’ve shed tears from anxiety and guilt upon leaving a job (I’m a quite ‘cerebral’ person usually) because I felt like I’d “escaped” and thrown the others under the bus.

    The situation was that layoffs had been announced for a few months time but it was uncertain whether they would definitely happen or what the timing would be, and I chose to voluntarily move on ahead of time as I had more employment ‘options’ and didn’t want to deal with the uncertainty dragging on.

    I was leaving a big project in the lurch, because although I’m not “indispensable” I had become key to the project due to the usual problems of lack of cross-training, poor project management, etc. I knew the people left behind would struggle through no real fault of their own, and I guess I felt guilty that I’d put my own “wants” ahead of what seemed to be a load of other people’s well-being.

    Looking back it wasn’t a healthy response but I think it’s understandable.

  44. Sigh*

    For LW 1, I would really think about if this is just your preference or really necessary. I’m dealing with this with my supervisor right now. She was always said (even pre-pandemic) work is social for her and she would never want to WFH. She wants me back in office full time. Our agency has not made that decision yet and our mutual boss has no problem with me coming in a few mornings a week but she will not let it go. She even made a comment about how I’m fully vaccinated so I have nothing to worry about (I have a few autoimmune diseases and my drs have said the vaccine might not provoke as robust an immune response for me.)
    She can’t tell me to come back full time but is making comments about how she knows I really want to be in the office more and how much more fun it is with more people in the office.
    I’m really getting fed up with the pressure and am looking to more on.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I’m moving my comment from a new thread to a reply to yours, because your comment is a perfect example of what I mean with my comment!

      LW1 I highly doubt there is much difference between seeing employees in person once every two weeks and not at all… I think this is just your strong personal preference rather than a requirement of your “work style.” Be careful about requiring something unnecessary just because it’s what *you* want… It’s an abuse of your power and employees will pick up on it. It’s a recipe for bad morale. Many jobs will be offering more flexibility around working from home post-pandemic, and you will be setting yourself up for a massive exodus.

      1. username-needed*

        I could not agree more. You gave summed up my feelings perfectly.

        LW#1, tread very carefully here. If your staff don’t need to be in the office, and they don’t want to be there, leave it alone.

    2. allathian*

      When you do move on, let your supervisor know that the main/only reason you’re moving on is because she insist you’d be happier in the office. I bet your mutual boss would be happy to be your reference.

      But if she’s just your supervisor in the sense that she only supervises your work but doesn’t have any power to make you return to the office against your will or to fire you, and especially given that your mutual manager supports you staying home, would it be possible for you to ask your mutual manager to make her stop talking about it?

  45. CW*

    #4 – Your boss reminds me of my mother’s former coworker. Every time she sends an email, she expects an answer within 1 minute. Then she starts getting anal retentive, complaining that nobody is answering her and getting very antsy. I suspect she would get aggressive and constantly follow up with another email or a phone call. If 5 minutes have passed without an answer, she acts like it is 5 days. My mother even told me that she actually started to cry at one point. Like sheesh, you might have a lot on your plate that you probably can’t answer right away. There are times that I don’t get a response that day, and unless it is urgent, I don’t bother to follow up unless I haven’t heard back for several days. Why should you always answer immediately unless it is an emergency? It drove my mother crazy.

  46. Lentils*

    #5, it’s legal but it sucks so bad, my sympathies. My old job did this – I worked the corporate side of a private security company and, bafflingly, they let the guards work on holiday pay if they wanted to but closed the office on federal holidays and hourly office staff got in HUGE trouble if we tried to work on those days. (They also let you come in on weekends to make up the missed hours if you wanted, but were sticklers for not working overtime without advance permission – I got stern emails several times about accidentally going 15 minutes OT on Fridays…when I was just trying to finish my weekly tasks that really did need to get done, and hadn’t anticipated needing that extra 15 minutes to do so. I don’t miss that place.)

  47. Persephone Mongoose*

    Aww, #2 is so sweet. I left a job in early March after nearly 3 years and while I was over the moon when I got the offer for my current job (I had been casually looking after about a year and then ramped up the job search when the pandemic hit), imagine my surprise when I found myself getting slightly emotional when giving my boss notice over Teams! Thankfully my camera was off.

    In reality, the job wasn’t all bad — there was a lot that was good about it, actually! — but even when we’re actively looking to escape, it can still feel bittersweet. Part of working at a company that isn’t so great is that you end up bonding with your coworkers over it, and leaving that camaraderie behind is painful.

    I hope your new job is going swimmingly!

  48. TheOfficeIsNotTheDevil*

    In regards to letter #1, was there a point at which working in an office became equal to asking people to throw themselves into a pit of fire? It’s like the very notion of going into work twice a month is all of of a sudden the most egregious thing anyone could ask of an employee. Every single time this comes up, I just wait for people to pull out their fainting couches and collapse under the weight of being asked to go into the office. As someone who works in a office and never stopped working in that office at all during the last year, I am starting to feel like I am in the twilight zone. I get preferring to work from home. For some people, it allows them more freedom and apparently the ability to do whatever they want all while not wearing pants or shoes. But when did offices become the absolute torture chamber people are making them out to be? This obsession with working from home feels so short sighted and I am deeply concerned about how long remote jobs will remain in the US if they are so easy to do from anywhere.

    1. username-needed*

      This obsession with working from home feels so short-sighted and I am deeply concerned about how long remote jobs will remain in the US if they are so easy to do from anywhere.

      This is where lawmakers need to step in and ensure that local workers are protected, by ensuring that companies have to pay local salaries for whichever workers they bring on (so that offshoring provides no financal benefits to offshoring as it costs the company the same no matter who they are hiring). They can also legislate alround things like residency or citizenship status being required for certain jobs, alongside qualifications etc.

    2. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Your hyperbole aside (nobody has referred to offices as torture chambers but you), the short answer is that advancements in technology have made remote work possible in a way that was unthinkable when I started out forty years ago. It has been a tremendous help to people who for health reasons would otherwise have had to leave the workforce.

      I also take issue with your statement that working at home gives one the ability to do what they want. In actuality, you exchange sitting in front of a computer in an external office for sitting in front of a computer in your home. Work still has to be done and there is still stress!

      I would rather my employer increase wages than pay for unnecessary expensive real estate, utilities, and furniture. Organizations reduce overhead quite a bit, and are also able to have robust continuity of operations plans when remote work is maximized.

      That said, remote work has never applied to hands-on occupations or occupations requiring physical staffing of a facility or post. I know virtual doctor visits are a thing, but I hate them and feel that they do not render the best care. For the most part, remote work is manipulating data, information, and words, along with going to meetings. I don’t need to sit next to somebody to do that.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Oh, I meant to add that the ship sailed a long time ago with manufacturing jobs leaving the US for cheap labor elsewhere. This government is not protectionist and is financed by rich people who maximize profits by leaving the US. Call centers are already largely outsourced also, costing many US jobs. This is an economic issue that will never go away as long as maximizing profit is the overarching goal of business.

Comments are closed.