do I need to keep covering a remote employee’s work?

A reader writes:

Pre-pandemic, I was often collaborating in-office with a coworker, Alice. We do hands-on work with physical products that our company makes, and it’s not possible to work collaboratively on them with someone who’s not in the same room as you.

When our company went fully remote in March of last year, it meant I would need to work on these products from home and would need to take up Alice’s duties since we could not meet. She has a very specific skillset that I have no expertise in, so while I have learned to do her part as best I can, I do not do it very well, and the quality of our products has certainly suffered. It’s also taken up a large chunk of my time, adding a few extra hours to many of my days. That said, I’ve been happy to continue doing Alice’s part of these projects for the course of the pandemic, as I know there is no alternative when everyone is fully remote.

However, our office is finally reopening next month and allowing people to return. I’ve been very excited about this because it means Alice will be able to resume her work on these products. However, I found out recently that Alice has decided to remain fully remote (an option that our company is offering to all employees) and is very opposed to the reopening. While my manager has said he is discussing having her come in one or two days a week to “take some work off my plate,” it’s clear that I’m expected to continue doing many of Alice’s pre-pandemic tasks.

Am I wrong to think this is unfair? I know that people have legitimate reasons for wanting to remain remote and it should not be my decision to force someone back to the office, especially when I am not Alice’s manager (she’s actually senior to me). However, I did not sign up to spend a significant amount of time doing the tasks that Alice was previously doing in-person; they are not what I enjoy or my area of expertise, and I do not want them to be a permanent part of my job. How can I approach this with my boss without making it seem like I am trying to force Alice to return to the office?

No, you’re not wrong. You were willing to pinch-hit when there was a massive global emergency, but you didn’t sign on to take over part of your colleague’s job permanently, especially if it’s just because she’d prefer to stay remote.

In theory, this doesn’t need to be about where Alice does or doesn’t work from. In theory, it should be about your manager needing to better allocate work and how he does that is up to him. Maybe that means he asks Alice to come in more often, or maybe it means he moves those tasks to someone else with more room for them, or maybe he hires a new position entirely, or who knows what. In theory, from your perspective it shouldn’t really matter if Alice’s schedule changes to fix this or if your boss finds a different solution.

In theory.

In reality, of course it’s enormously frustrating to have a colleague just drop this on you because she’d rather keep working from home, without any acknowledgement of what it will mean for you and your workload. Your irritation with how it’s been handled so far is understandable — although it’s still ultimately on your boss, not her.

As for what to do, talk to your boss. Say this: “I was happy to help Alice out with ___ while we were in a pinch and all pitching in during an emergency, but the plan was never for it to stay with me permanently. Taking on this work during the pandemic has taken up a large chunk of my time and frequently adds several extra hours to my days. I also don’t have the expertise Alice has, so the quality of our products has suffered in XYZ ways. I’ve been counting on her taking it back over once we reopened. Can she either come in enough days a week to resume our normal division of labor, or is there someone else who has room for it? It’s not sustainable for me to keep doing it.”

If you get the sense that your boss isn’t that concerned about the quality issues (if he thinks what you’re doing is good enough), then don’t keep pushing that point — instead lean in strongly to you not having enough time and it having considerably lengthened your work weeks. And if he seems reluctant to ask Alice to return to the office, then you should say, “I of course defer to you on who takes it over or if we need to hire someone else to do this and the other in-office work that people who stay remote won’t be able to do, but we’ve got to get it off my plate because I can’t sustain the extra hours it’s been adding.”

If your manager decides this is now just part of your job for the long-term, at that point you could approach it like any other workload prioritization issue (“I can’t do all of this so let’s decide what can come off my plate instead”), think about whether makes sense for you to take your company up on this “anyone can work from home full-time if they want to” offer too, or decide if it’s just a deal-breaker for you.

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. Another Teacher*

    I’m noticing this is really common, and I love Alison’s language here! A lot of things got reshuffled “temporarily” and then temporary became weeks then months and now more than a year.

    I’ve found that it’s really helpful to trace what happened — ex. I took on an extra class last year to cover for a teacher who wasn’t able to come in and then the course just appeared on my schedule again this year without discussion. I was now the “default.” I had to go back and remind my principal how that came about and that it was supposed to be a one-time overload, not the setup going forward. It’s possible he was hoping I wouldn’t notice (?) but I think it’s much more like that SO many things were decided on the fly last year that he simply didn’t remember.

    1. Spearmint*

      That’s what I’d was thinking. It would be so easy for a manager to simply forget that this was supposed to be temporary. Or even if the LW’s manager hasn’t forgotten, he may have assumed everything is ok if the work is good and no one raised concerns about this distribution of work.

      1. Pants*

        Or the manager could “forget” that it’s temporary. Anything to get the work done, no matter who it impacts. Then again, maybe I’ve just worked in some toxic companies. (I have, for sure.)

      2. Kathlynn (Canadian)*

        Yeah, I’ve had so many “nice things done to help coworkers” become a mandatory part of the job, that I gotbin trouble for not doing them when swamped

      3. Malarkey01*

        I absolutely sympathize with LW who now has tasks assigned to them that they don’t want. However it seems commenters are jumping on Alice being a deadweight and just getting out of work and this being some sort of raw deal for LW while Alice is laughing in the corner.

        I know my company redid a lot of processes and workload in the last year because we found better (for the company) ways to distribute work so duties did get reshuffled. It was driven by the pandemic but only because we were forced to make fast decisions, all of our changes could have been driven my any other restructure.

        So maybe Alice is the villain here or maybe even if she wasn’t remote she’d have different tasks now and LW would be responsible for this whole product and Alice is banging her head against new work. I’d approach this more as any non-pandemic work situation where your duties are changed to either something you don’t like or something that takes way too much time and not get bogged down in framing this as a remote work thing.

    2. Artemesia*

      How about them moving the entire task to Alice — if the LW can do it alone, why can’t Alice with her expertise do it alone. Alternatively there are a lot of platforms for doing collaborative work — figure out how to do the tasks (unless it is literally physically constructing something) collaboratively.

      1. Taycan*

        I was wondering the same thing. Almost feels as if the coworker likes not having to do her old task (huge projection). I say that bc if my task was temporarily moved to someone else, I’d be inquiring about how to get it back. But maybe the coworker picked up new tasks herself…maybe this is just a miscommunicated rebalance of work….

        1. Momma Bear*

          I was thinking the same. Alice is the expert and if the product is suffering without her being a part of it, I would ask about transferring all of it to her. If LW can do all of it alone, Alice should be able to, too. If the manager thinks this would then leave LW without sufficient tasks, perhaps there is something else LW can pick up that is more in their wheelhouse.

          I’d definitely mention that you took this on temporarily and want to discuss the reality now. I once accepted some of my coworker’s work, expecting them to be out for x timeframe. When it was clear that they weren’t going to be returning to the project, I was honest that no, I did not want to swap roles. Company ended up moving the coworker to another department and hiring someone else.

    3. BadWolf*

      People absolutely forget (even managers) that you took on something extra temporarily. If it’s working good enough and no one’s asking for it back, the temporary becomes the status quo. Unless someone asks for it back, pushing it back (politely) is not a surprise.

      1. Nicotene*

        Yes, so often in offices schedules, budgets, workplans etc just get rolled over from year to year and small pieces updated, which makes situations like this necessary to flag. I wouldn’t assume malicious intent from anyone.

      2. That_guy*

        I’d say especially managers. There is nothing so permanent as a temporary solution.

    4. Nobby Nobbs*

      I’ve noticed a weird psychological… thing in myself during the pandemic, mostly outside of work. A major change will happen, then within a short amount of time it will start to feel like the new thing has been the status quo for years. This whole mess has been screwing with people’s perception of time and “normal” badly enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if this were happening more than just me.

      1. Nicotene*

        My old coworker used to say “a little change hurts a lot and a big change doesn’t hurt that much more,” which I think about all the time.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Hmm yes, like going from childless to one kid is more of an upheaval than going from one to two.

      2. Spero*

        I absolutely agree with this. I’ve been in my role for 3 years before the pandemic, and I recently tried to return to a pre-pandemic procedure I used to be the office specialist in…and I just couldn’t do it. I had to get out the training tutorial (that I made! to train someone else!) and actual re-teach myself what I was supposed to do. And I had to put a sticky note reminder up to do it the ‘old’ way again. The pandemic time warp is real

    5. anonymouse*

      I wouldn’t even bring up “can we bring in Alice one day a week?”
      Alice’s schedule is no concern of OP’s. And I mean that in a good way.
      As in, ”
      OK, I’m coming back to the office so I need to transfer this work that I was doing at home. Now that we are back, I can’t give the extra two hours a day that I was giving at home to this project. Especially because it’s not my area, so I’m not the best person for it anyway. Going forward, how can I help transition this to someone else.™

      From the Alison Book of Useful Phrasing and Techniques™:
      Chapter 3, “Let’s look at how to proceed.” Start from the place of “of course you will accept this reasonable request because it is based on information that you, my supervisor gave me.”

      1. Yorick*

        These task are Alice’s. It’s ok to mention Alice, but it shouldn’t be about her schedule. It should be, “how do we get this half-completed product to Alice so she can finish it?”

        OP, you and Alice used to work collaboratively on this in the same room and I assume at the same time. Is this something that you could start and then hand over to Alice, or vice versa? If so, there’s no reason she can’t do it from home just like you were.

        1. OP*

          Yes, during the pandemic there was some mailing of units back and forth (we live on opposite ends of our city, about 1.5 hours from each other). The issue is that our products often need to be turned within one or two days, and the extra time required to mail generally added a few extra days to the process that we couldn’t always afford. So for the 75% of projects with a one-day or two-day deadline, mailing wasn’t an option. (I did once drive her a unit when I very urgently needed something fixed in person, but the 1.5 hours each way took a lot out of me!)

          1. anonymouse*

            Whoa! To drop something off? And then go home? Oh hell to the no.
            They can hire a courier.
            I can’t imagine my company asking a staff member to do that.
            They should have been having it couriered to her this entire time (but that’s just me. Shout out to big corporations. Because this “hey, do you mind?” crap. I’m over it.)

            1. OP*

              Wish I’d specified this in the question! Pasted from below:
              Basically, I build teapots and Alice paints the teapots (it’s not that, but it’s very close to that). My building job requires a lot of specific training that Alice isn’t qualified for and couldn’t realistically do without a different college degree, whereas Alice’s painting is something I could be trained to do over Zoom (I just have no natural talent for it and am terrible).

              1. OP*

                Like, if you imagine what a professionally painted teapot would look like vs one that was painted by an amateur who took a Zoom class, that’s the difference in quality we’re talking!

              2. Ellie*

                Your analogy probably makes it sound easier than it really is, but there may be a simple solution that you’re overlooking. For example, some system where you build the teapots and then drop them in the office on Wednesday, and then Alice picks them up from the office and paints them? You might just need to call a meeting with your boss and Alice and go through the options on how this will work going forward.

                1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  This is what I was thinking. Either Alice could still work out-of-office, but her schedule includes a trip to pick up/drop off product once or twice a week, or she works in the office one day a week and does all the teapot painting at once. Or they have a courier make trips.

                  Perhaps this could mean a longer turnaround on product, but maybe that’s a change that’s possible/necessary if they’re going to let Alice work from home. Like instead of “done within two days!” the new timeline could be “done by EOD on Friday, if the order is received before Thursday.”

                  Also, OP, I can’t imagine someone doing work creating a physical item can be accurately classified as exempt. Make sure you are charging those extra hours to overtime, and then bring those costs to this discussion. While it might be possible your employer is willing to take the hit in quality so long as no one complains (although hopefully customers would care if the quality of their product drops significantly), the increased production cost for same or less customer satisfaction might add weight to your argument if it they try to make this your job.

              3. Spero*

                So in that case, I agree your three options are 1) a standard teapot painter in office – that could be Alice, or a new hire; 2) an office hired courier service (ie NOT YOU) to transport products between teams that are separately located; 3) and adjustment to the schedule for which it is promised to the client – instead of a 24 hour turnaround it is a 48 hour, one day for your part/then courier/then one day for Alice. These are all business expenses that can and should be adjusted along with the other business changes of their new staffing model. They may not have anticipated these additional expenses but that’s frankly not your issue.

        2. anonymouse*

          Oh, I understand. I really meant specifically not about Alice’s schedule, not about her doing the task. But I see where I got too vague.
          Yes, absolutely, “Now that we are back, how will this go back to Alice?”

    6. Ama*

      Yeah a few years back, the admin in my department got pulled into a bigger chunk of front desk coverage because some of the people in the backup rotation had left (we had a full time receptionist but someone had to cover for her lunch hour, PTO, etc.). Then she got asked to help cover a different task “temporarily” because one of the people doing it was doing a massive short-term project. 18 months later she was still doing two hours of work a day for other departments even though the circumstances she was supposedly temporarily covering for had stopped.

      I was a relatively new manager at the time and thought my boss was aware of what was going on, but we were having trouble getting our department work done because I lost her for two hours a day (not to mention that because the other tasks were at set times it was getting hard to schedule meetings that she needed to be in because she was unavailable for those two hours and her own lunch hour), so I finally brought it up to my boss. Turned out she had no idea that the Operations Department head had not even started on the plan to transition back to a front desk rotation, which they had talked about months ago (this is unfortunately a pattern with that particular person, she agrees to plans that she doesn’t follow through on without constant prodding) and was unaware my admin had been pulled into mail coverage at all.

      Within a week a front desk rotation had been implemented with every department providing one day a week of lunch/PTO coverage and the mail coverage had been reassigned to a team that wasn’t doing front desk coverage at all so no one person or department was stuck with everything. My boss also arranged for my admin to get a spot bonus that year as a thank you for covering that extra work for so long. And I learned a really important managerial lesson about not assuming my boss knows how me or my team is being required to spend their time.

      1. Caliente*

        Yes – and this is the crap that happens to good admins or assistants ALL the time. I’ve had it happen in every position I’ve been in as far as I can remember.

        1. mf*

          Former admin here. Can confirm: extra work like this gets handed to you in a crisis and everyone conveniently forgets that it wasn’t part of your job to begin with.

    7. Lana Kane*

      It’s very rare that I agree to have the teams I supervise take on tasks temporarily, because my org has shown that the amount of time it takes a “for now” to become “but you always do this!” is slightly slower than the speed of light. Slightly.

    8. Sandangel*

      I’m dealing with something like this at work. I work in retail, and obviously a bunch of people have been leaving, and my department is kind of the redheaded stepchild of my store, so we’re badly understaffed despite needing it badly. When a particular coworker left, I got stuck with a bunch of early morning shifts, and I had to formally adjust my availability so I wouldn’t get stuck with her shifts by default. Just this morning, I was working on a task that ideally should have had at least two, maybe three people, entirely solo, and if there’s any plans to expand our department, I haven’t heard anything.

      And yes, I am job hunting, don’t worry.

  2. duck10*

    No mention of hours in the week and salary?

    Everyone should only work a certain amount of hours a week and be paid fairly for it. Your boss can ask you do the work they require within those hours. If you do not like the tasks, then find another job.

    IF the boss is asking you to do more work than is a fair working week then frame it as this – an hours issue.

    IF you simply don’t like the tasks but your work week is not overlong then you can try to shuffle off the tasks but generally speaking an employer can ask you to do the work they require within your working week.

    1. Alex*

      I think LW and Alison are avoiding the topic of salary bc saying “I’m not paid for this work” opens up the door of them giving a raise to keep doing the work, and LW just seems to want the regular workload back!

      1. Texan In Exile*

        OMG yes! I don’t want my pay to go up to match my work, I want my work to go down to match my pay!

  3. YikesOnBikes*

    I am wondering what Alice has been doing during the pandemic—how was the workload divided initially? How was it decided that OP would be the one making the products at home instead of Alice?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. I wonder why Alice wasn’t working on some of the products from her home and doing her part easily and LW’s part through some difficulty.

      I’d guess that Alice’s part can be done to a low level of quality by a non-expert while the LW’s cannot or that LW volunteered while Alice did not or LW’s portion is the vast majority so it “made sense” that she do it all.

      LW push back. Now that we’re no longer required to work from home someone other than me needs to do the portion of the work that Alice used to do. it doesn’t have to be Alice but for the reasons you mentioned, it can’t be you.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes or Alice, who’s more senior, had more pressing priorities they wanted her focused on. It sounds like one of them would need to do both parts of the work while the office was closed, and it might have made logical sense for Alice to be able to focus on other stuff.

        1. NYWeasel*

          My read is that the work is physically assessing prototypes, which is something my team does regularly. A lot of the assessments have to be done in person—I can’t check rough edges or durability over a zoom call, and if I’m trying to tell someone else what to look for, they won’t necessarily understand what they are seeing as well as I do. So Alice could have had plenty of bandwidth, but since she didn’t have the prototypes in front of her, she still wouldn’t be able to give her normal input.

          1. OP*

            Thank you for the question! Basically, I build teapots and Alice paints the teapots (it’s not that, but it’s very close to that). My building job requires a lot of specific training that Alice isn’t qualified for and couldn’t realistically do without a different college degree, whereas Alice’s painting is something I could be trained to do over Zoom (I just have no natural talent for it and am terrible).

            Alison is correct that Alice has a number of other tasks (commissioning other teapot painters, etc) that she has been focused on throughout this.

            1. LilyP*

              Apologies if this is something you’ve already eliminated, but would it be possible to have a hand-off mid-process? Like you assemble them, leave them at the office, and then Alice picks them up on her day in the office and paints them at home?

              1. OP*

                Yeah, I’m guessing that some version of that might be what ends up happening, but I expect it won’t be Alice’s first choice. We turn around 2-3 of these projects per week, so it would still require a lot of commuting on her part to have to keep coming into pick stuff up.

                1. Nancy*

                  That’s not your problem to sokve though. You cannot do it permanently and you cannot commute over to Alice to drop it off. Alice and her boss needs to figure out the logistics, or they need to hire someone new for this task.

                2. linger*

                  You mentioned Alice was commissioning other “painters”. Could this be part of the solution, i.e. Alice’s job could legitimately include finding another worker who could complete what was her part of your projects in-office?

  4. Bostonian*

    Yikes. The company gave everyone the offer to work remotely permanently regardless of their role and duties? What if both Alice and OP had opted to work remotely?

    1. KHB*

      I think that in a lot of these cases, the people making the “anyone can work remotely if they want to” policies are not the same people who have to deal with the million little snafus that those policies can cause.

      1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        Was part of the team that helped to craft our ‘return to work’ procedure (from a technical standpoint) and it was incredibly eye opening how many considerations come into play, and our office isn’t that large. We at least had a ‘playbook’ more or less from our parent organization to default to, but I can 100% see how good intentions can lead to a less-than-ideal final location.

        1. KHB*

          That’s really interesting – would you mind elaborating a bit more on your experience? We’re just getting started on crafting our policies for the post-pandemic workplace, and I signed up to help out because I really want to make sure this doesn’t become a total flaming disaster. (Our CEO has started articulating his vision of what our “agile, distributed workforce” should look like, and it makes zero sense to me when compared to the specifics of what my colleagues and I actually do all day. But the CEO has made clear that he doesn’t know what we do all day and doesn’t care.)

          1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

            One of the largest considerations that we had to deal with was “what are the full costs of moving to fully remote, a hybrid model, or remaining fully in office?” From this we had to look at what we, as a organization, paid for in terms of technology. All of our work computers are desktop models, and if we allowed flexibility that would mean we would need to transition towards laptops. Further, what about the costs of internet (should this be covered by employees, or would they be reimbursed)? What about the costs associated with shipping/receiving? Incidental office supplies (paper, ink, etc)?

            Every single person that is tied to an office, when moved to a remote setting, is essentially needing an ‘office’ brought to them. During the pandemic there, of course, was tons of leeway provided as everyone was ‘making do’ as we waited for it to end. But now that we are entering what will be our new paradigm things that were ‘make do’ need to have a functioning plan.

            As an example of a ‘little thing’ that can quickly spiral into a major cost: everyone’s salaries and models we had on reimbursement were designed on people spending the great majority of their time in office. If we moved to a fully remote model then who will pay for that person’s dedicated internet connection? Their salary is based around them having an office provided to them and using our corporate internet. But now that they would be working from home mandating them to have an internet connection as part of their job without compensation goes outside the contract they agreed to. Essentially that internet cost is now coming out of their paycheck. And with internet in our area averaging roughly $90 per home, that small cost scales up incredibly quick.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Their salary is based around them having an office provided to them and using our corporate internet. But now that they would be working from home mandating them to have an internet connection as part of their job without compensation goes outside the contract they agreed to. Essentially that internet cost is now coming out of their paycheck. And with internet in our area averaging roughly $90 per home, that small cost scales up incredibly quick.

              Their salary would also then be based on the cost of the commute, be that vehicular, public transportation, walking, etc, and those costs did come out of the employee’s pocket. That offsets part of the cost of the Internet connection–using my last 100% on-site job and current ISP, the Internet is a fraction of what I spent to commute.

              1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

                In the area I’m in it’s incredibly common for employers to cover costs associated with commuting, or at least partially reimburse them. But this is indeed part of the calculus that goes into what the overall costs associated with WFH versus in-office.

                Plus, honestly, you don’t want it to look like you’re ‘taking’ from an employee. It’s one thing for when you hire an employee into a position that has WFH built into it. Total compensation has already been set at that fair value. It’s converting current positions that weren’t coded as WFH that it become tricky as you want the most equitable solution.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I’d never seen or even heard of an employer covering part of the commuting costs. That would certainly change the math!

    2. Quantum Hall Effect*

      Then OP would be in the same situation she is right now — doing both her and Alice’s work at home.

    3. OP*

      I don’t really agree with the policy either, but I’ve also hated working from home, so I’m certainly biased! Our company has a lot of very vocal people (somewhat the nature of our industry) who have made very clear that they think work from home is the future and will not return to the office and have been pushing for this policy. I think our company has also seen the news reports all over the place of revolts at companies that aren’t offering remote options, and of people quitting places en masse rather than going back to the office, so they’ve been spooked into doing this.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Offering remote options is great, but it can’t be a free-for-all when there’s in-person work to be done! Nobody’s going to quit en masse because your company tells Alice “teapot painting is supposed to be part of your job description, ergo we need you to come in often enough to get them painted”

        1. JM60*

          Nobody’s going to quit en masse because your company tells Alice “teapot painting is supposed to be part of your job description, ergo we need you to come in often enough to get them painted”

          The problem is that they already told her she could go full remote, and retroactively pulling that from her would be a crappy thing to do, especially if Alice was relying on it. Allowing someone to be fully remote might make someone make certain commitments, such as putting bids on a house in a lower COL living area hundreds of miles away, or it might make someone who can’t get vaccinated for legit medical reasons avoid searching for a fully remote job.

          I think that since the company is the one being unfair to the OP, and the company is the one who told Alice she could be fully remote, it’s on the company to make it right to the OP without retroactively implementing significant changes on others without their consent.

      2. There's a snake in my boots*

        I wanna say, I get that this is specifically difficult for your specific work and you have very practical reasons for wanting the working situation to be different, but there are also a lot of extremely serious reasons why people don’t want to be back in public spaces in the middle of a pandemic as well. That can be individual (for a huge portion of those that are high-risk, vaccines will not be very/at all effective) or about overall trends (this sweeping reopening that’s happening across the country right now is just about the exact thing you’d want to do if you were intentionally trying to make vaccine-resistant variants). A lot of folks are seeing the pandemic as effectively ending, but we’re still dead in the middle of it, and there are about a million different very good reasons people can have to want to specifically protect their households that you aren’t gonna be privy to.

        So I would encourage you to consider this not as “Alice prefers to work from home” but rather “Alice may need to work from home” and focus your requests on how they can fix your workload broadly without focusing on whether or not Alice is specifically the one to do it. If I were you, I wouldn’t bring up Alice’s new remote work at all, not because I would be trying to shelter her but because I think that would be the most effective route to a positive outcome for me. A broader request opens up a lot more possible solutions for you, and protects against everything defaulting back onto your plate if an Alice-based solution doesn’t work out. There may well be other solutions to this that are good for you that you aren’t aware of, but that your management could come up with if you gave them a totally open ended request where your workload is the problem to solve.

        If you bring up Alice’s schedule, it’d be easy for them to get tunnel vision on sorting this out as an Alice-OP issue, which is not likely to get you the best outcome. If you hinge the whole thing on her, then any roadblock to that (mgmt doesn’t want to press, it’s an ADA accommodation, Alice leaves for a new job, etc) leaves it all back in your lap as the same “temporary” measure you’ve already experienced. You want this to be a more general problem for them to solve: you covered x during the shuffle, but now you need a new reliable process for this task by which x can get done without you having y extra workload at all times. You don’t want that to hang on any single other employee’s availability, or it can be disrupted too easily and land you back at square one.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah I get that. I can work from anywhere with an internet connection, I just need a laptop and I’m operational. If you’re making and painting teapots, you’ll presumably need equipment and supplies and a worktop and a place to dry the painted teapots: basically it’d take up a whole room. That’s typically not the kind of thing you can just improvise, so it’s much better to either be paid enough to have a room at home that’s just for work or come in to the workplace. It would make sense for both you and Alice to be dealing with the teapots at work, and then Alice could WFH when she’s not painting the teapots.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I am extremely pro WFH but it just doesn’t sound like it realistically works to offer that 100% to people doing work that requires what seems like some amount of interacting physically with products.

  5. serenity*

    think about whether makes sense for you to take your company up on this “anyone can work from home full-time if they want to” offer too

    I’m glad you said this because this point is key. I think some people will read the letter and their antagonism towards remote work will bubble up to the surface. But that’s not the point. Remote work is a great benefit to those who want it and situations like this need to be handled *responsibly* and *equitably* by managers. OP, I hope that happens to you in this case.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      It’s also a reality that not all jobs can be 100% remote no matter how much people want them to be and how much employers want to accommodate. Mine can’t, no matter how much anyone wishes it could be.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is me as well – for a short crunch I can work remotely (with part of the job just not being done), but in no way can I always be remote.

        (I also don’t mind going to the office – because it makes my job very clearly stop when I leave the office.)

    2. Cj*

      They’ve been working from home, doing both parts of the job. If they say they want to work from home now, there is no reason to think that won’t continue. That’s the exact situation the OP wants to avoid.

      1. KHB*

        Yeah, I don’t understand how it would make any of this any better if OP were to work from home too. (Maybe if OP preferred to work from home for some unrelated reason, she’d at least get that part of the benefit, but there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that that’s the case.)

        1. serenity*

          I’m guessing Alison included that as a way for OP to push back and make the manager realize that 1) everyone can’t feasibly work from home and get all aspects of the work done and 2) the company needs to realize that some people opting in to this will mean managers need to figure out everyone’s workload going forward in an equitable and fair way. I don’t think it was a serious suggestion.

      2. OP*

        Yep, that’s the situation. if I were to keep working from home I would need to keep doing Alice’s work (there’d be no way to avoid it in that case) so that’s definitely not the option for me.

        1. Amaranth*

          Is there a way to set delivery dates based on a schedule of when the ‘painting’ will be completed, perhaps twice a week? Or is that 2-day turnaround a hallmark of your business? Though, really, its up to the manager to come up with a solution, so I don’t know that I’d get bogged down in brainstorming unless invited. It could shift towards a feeling that its your responsibility to resolve the situation since you’re feeling the impact.

    3. Manana*

      LW has been working from home this whole time too, they just made her do all the work on these products. Seems like Alice is either in a more senior position or LW needs to start looking for a new job.

  6. CatPerson*

    So basically Alice has decided that she no longer wants to do part of her job. Is she taking a pay cut to account for the smaller job? Or a raise for you? I guess not. In most cases I feel that employees should be empowered to work out a flexible schedule, but that’s not how this is supposed to work.

    1. Spearmint*

      Since she’s senior, I wonder if she took on other, higher level projects in the meantime.

    2. JRR*

      Even pre-pandemic it has always been normal for job duties to get shuffled around and no one expected adjustments in pay every time that happened.

      I used to have a tech-support job where my duties were to communicate with the customer to determine what spare parts they needed, then retrieve those parts from a shelf, pack them in a box, print out a shipping label, and carry the package to the shipping department. Eventually my boss (at my suggestion) decided that I shouldn’t do so many tasks that didn’t require my specialized knowledge, so he reassigned all but the first step of that process to one of my coworkers.

      Did I get a pay cut because I now had fewer duties? Did my coworker get a raise? No.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, I do definitely feel for Alice here and that’s part of the reason I want to be careful in how I handle this. She has no shortage of other things to do, and someone from her department was also laid off during the pandemic and others in the department have had to cover that person’s duties. I hope that maybe Alison’s script will help people realize that they need to rehire for that laid-off position….but that also would presumably not impact Alice’s choice to be remote or the company’s remote policy.

    3. Heidi*

      I was going to mention that the OP is in a good position ask for a raise if she continues to do the additional work. Of course, if what OP really wants is to reduce the workload to pre-pandemic levels, she should ask for that. I would also point out that there are other options besides making Alice come back or the OP just absorbing more work. They could redistribute Alice’s work to other employees (if OP could do it, why not someone else who is equally inexperienced?). Or they could hire someone else who has the skills Alice has.

  7. Damn it, Hardison!*

    LW was able to work on the products while working remote, so perhaps Alice could work on them remotely going forward?

    1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      That is because she had the products I believe. So Alice couldn’t be in the same place as the OP to do their part of the work. So the same applies now that the products are back in the office. Unless Alice is there she can’t do the work.

      1. Quantum Hall Effect*

        If the company made it work sending the products to OP’s Home, it’s not out of bounds to ask whether the product could be sent to Alice’s home for her to do the complete process. That doesn’t mean their manager will agree, but it is fair to ask.

    2. Kesnit*

      OP said above that Alice does not have the qualifications to do OP’s part of the job.

  8. Vox Experientia*

    i’m hearing about a lot of this kind of thing going on. people who stepped up and stayed at work during the pandemic are being punished professional – they’re doing admin duties, mailing things, tasks unrelated to their job, being passed over for opportunities because others have gone remote. this is one of the reasons turnover is so high right now. people are feeling taken advantage of. instead of rewarding the people who dropped everything to do whatever it took to keep things going during the pandemic, management is rewarding the people who’ve been working in their pjs, taking breaks to watch judge judy every day.

    1. Spearmint*

      I don’t think this is a fair or accurate generalization. First of all, working from is not a break or a vacation where you can watch TV in your PJs. People still have deadlines and projects and email.

      True, many of the sacrifices made by those who couldn’t work from home haven’t been sufficiently recognized. At the same time, I’ve also read many people who feel that work from home hurt their career. In many cases, it’s the remote employees who have less visibility to management compared to the people in the office.

      1. HotSauce*

        You’re darn right! Since going remote I’ve needed to work longer hours because simple 5 minute conversations I had in the office turned into 20 minute conference calls. We cut our staff as well, so all of us had to take on extra work. I’ve essentially been working 7 – 5 pretty much every weekday since March 2020. I’m sure there are a few people out there who are taking advantage of working remotely, but all of the people I’ve spoken with have said it’s been no picnic. Sure, there’s an advantage of not having to commute and being able to wear yoga pants, but there are also disadvantages of isolation, connectivity, and people being suspicious of not being able to get a hold of you for 5 minutes because you had to step away to use the bathroom or heat up some lunch.

      2. insertusername*

        But then we hear about people working remotely while at the zoo with their kids and that hurts perception of working from home.

        This company should be looking at quality control and maybe it’s not possible to continue having one person remote when there are two people who need to physically work on different parts of a product to ensure the best result.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          But then we hear about people working remotely while at the zoo with their kids and that hurts perception of working from home.

          You mean the single LW who mentioned that their BIL worked “part of the day” at the zoo while with his child?

    2. Michelle Smith*

      This is a bit rude. I literally could not “drop everything” to go into the office without risking my life as a person who is high risk. I did all of my work to a high degree of quality from home. It’s not my fault that other people took advantage of the work-from-home opportunity to do not their jobs and I don’t like the assumption that every who works from home is lazy and doesn’t pull their weight.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yes. And remote work has its own challenges – especially if there are other family members present, a lack of a private and appropriate workspace, responsibilities towards remote-schooled kids,etc.

        That said, these conflicts should almost never be worker against worker – it needs to be up to management to appropriately balance workloads and reward those who’ve taken on the harder tasks. There’s no reason to paint Alice as a villain. (FWIW, I’m working remotely at present. A commute would add three hours to my workday and cost about $400/month. This is like a raise and a mini-vacation every day. That makes a difference to many people).

        As an aside, pre-pandemic there’d been studies showing remote workers to be MORE engaged than those in the physical office. The “slacker on the couch watching Judge Judy” narrative may not be supported by reality.

      2. londonedit*

        Exactly. My employer closed our offices immediately and still hasn’t reopened them, so I had no option but to work from home. I’m fortunate that my job can be done remotely, and I’m fortunate that I have a quiet space to work in, but I certainly haven’t been slacking off or taking breaks to watch TV. I still have the same expectations, the same schedules to follow and the same deadlines to hit, and I have to work my contracted hours in order to do my job properly, just the same as if I was in the office. I’m not denying that it’s a benefit being able to pop a load of washing in the machine or go to the supermarket at lunchtime, but that’s no different from chatting with people in the office for 10 minutes while you make a cup of tea. The perception that anyone who works from home is slacking off is really untrue and very unfair to those of us who have been doing our jobs with no discernible difference in quality despite being at home for the last 18 months. Plenty of studies have shown that people are working longer hours and under more stress at home than they were in the office.

      3. Zzzzzzz*

        Michelle Smith, I think there’s a difference between someone who might risk their health (you) and those who have no underlying risk factors but just live farther away and don’t want to commute (several people I work with). Those at risk should be allowed to stay home! Definitely! And if a job can be done remotely, stay at home! But when a person’s preference for no commute time means poor OP and people like here are getting screwed… well then, that person’s preference for wearing PJ pants and even if they are working hard at home shouldn’t mean they never have to come to the office.

        1. rachel in nyc*

          And that’s it. My office explicitly told us- we’re figuring stuff out. Don’t move further way than you are willing to commute daily.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            LOL. Yup – spouse’s office sent out an email very similar to that. The point being some people are going to get to stay remote – but not everyone will, and we need to figure out which positions are going to be in which group.

        2. Homebody Houseplant*

          I think people are forgetting that it was the RECOMMENDATION that people work remotely if at all possible to help prevent the spread of the virus. It wasn’t a choice for most people, and I really don’t like that it seems many people are retroactively acting like it was. It wasn’t a fun opportunity or one that was optional for many people, and it shouldn’t have been, because our death toll likely would have been much higher.

          My husband was essential and worked in person during Covid, but I didn’t. He never resented me, because we both realized the more people that were able to stay home the better. I feel for everyone that felt forced to work in person, but I’m quite sick of the haughtiness.

          1. Colette*

            And those who could stay home were helping those who had to go in by reducing the number of people they had to be exposed to.

        3. nonethefewer*

          When in doubt, blame up, not laterally. If these folk are getting screwed because someone else is WFH, whose responsibility is it to fix that? Because it’s usually management.

          1. JM60*

            Bingo. This is largely why I don’t like some of the comments, as well as AAM’s suggestion that the OP explicitly asks the employer to yank their offer to Alice to be fully remote (rather than asks the employer to solve it, without asking that the solution be to yank the fully-remote offer).

            To me, it’s somewhat like if a company offered to let someone work part-time for the same pay as a retention tool, but then shifted the workload over to you. The problem isn’t with the coworker who accepted the great offer (and may be relying on that offer not being retroactively taken away), but rather with the employer by changing how they treat you. It’s management’s problem to solve.

        4. There's a snake in my boots*

          Here’s the thing: This all sounds very reasonable, until you’re looking at a workforce and deciding who deserves this extra protection and who doesn’t. “Ok everyone, prove to me that your household would be in enough danger that I should allow you to be safer.”

          The same shitty thought patterns people always have around other generic accommodations are rearing up here, that getting them is a special treat that you must prove worthy of receiving. It’s also treating things that could easily be solved by better management as insurmountable hurdles that require people to physically endanger themselves.

      4. Colette*

        I don’t know of anyone who took advantage of working from home to not do their jobs. I’m sure there are rare cases, but people were working in less than ideal situations (e.g. on the couch because they didn’t have a desk), helping children access online school, and figuring out new ways to get work done without the supports of being in the office. Of course there are challenges to being in the office as well – but slacking off isn’t caused by working from home.

        1. Irish girl*

          Oh there were people at my company who got fired because they could not do their job without someone over their shoulder keeping them on track. We had entry level people who were doing fine when their buts were in their seats and a manager or supervisor could watch them, but when they were home it was a free for all. Some made it through but were required to come back into the office last summer as part of their PIP. I also knew someone years back who was allowed to work from home and then decided to give up bringing her children to day care which lead to her not working. I would not say it is rare but i do agree that the majority of people didnt slack off.

    3. Elenna*

      In addition to what others have said, this doesn’t seem to be applicable to this letter at all. Note that *both* LW and Alice have been working from home.
      The issue is simply that they used to collaborate, but now they can’t because they are in separate locations, so all the work has fallen on LW. Nothing to do with LW being in the office (especially since LW wasn’t in the office).

    4. some dude*

      Uh, during the pandemic I was super busy at work and also teaching and taking care of my 7 year old. I was not watching judge judy in my pjs. I’m looking forward to returning to the office several days a week so that I can have some actual separation from my work and life. At the same time, I cherish not having to spend two hours a day commuting, and instead using that time to exercise or be with my family.

    5. Lily of the field*

      I know several people have disagreed with you, but I agree. During the pandemic, my life changed only in increasing exponentially the amount of work I was expected to complete; I wound up working in two states, multiple cities, and numerous, numerous locations. I worked straight through it, with high amounts of contact with the public, and I have received exactly zero benefit from doing my job, and also for taking on work that other people refused to do because we could not stay home to do it. I see a lot of people complaining that their work days got longer because of how onerous working from home is, while mine got extended to 12 to 14 hours a day, many days, because the work had to be done, and I was one of few who would continue to work. I have received no pay raises, and a one time bonus of less than $200. It is almost impossible to not be resentful of people who refuse to see or acknowledge what essential workers had to face during the pandemic, while at the same time insisting that their struggles were of the utmost importance.

      1. ShowTime*

        I don’t see anyone here saying that essential workers didn’t do vital, difficult work during the pandemic, or saying that WFH people struggled more. People are pushing back on the very specific assertion that “working from home” means sitting around in your pajamas and slacking off to watch TV.

        1. some dude*

          Yeah, I don’t think I struggled more, I just disagree that I was chillaxin and relaxin. I understand that essential workers and people who had to be in-person through all of this had it rough. I also don’t think it is a zero sum game or competition. It was crumby for a lot of us. It was crumby for the single unemployed folks I know who smoked weed and played videogames for a month or two unsure of how they were going to make a living again.

      2. Taycan*

        Thank you for your service but “and I was one of few who would continue to work.” WE HAVE ALL BEEN WORKING. Do you all not get that? I have always WFH since 2013 but the amount of work and hours increased so much in 2020. We were asked to handle tasks for the in office folks so they could focus on “in person” duties. In March-May, we worked around the clock helping to get 80% of our workforce equipped to WFH. I mean we were on conference calls at 12AM do to VPN outages since the concentrators were overloaded. Us folks in IT had it rough and if we didn’t keep the tech running, there would have been impacts to those in customer facing roles.

        You sound resentful and dismissive of those that WFH’d. Trust me, I do not want to ever go back to that workload PLUS being on point for our child’s remote learning. Ugh remote learning….first 6 months were a nightmare even with my super easy child. Some teachers stopped teaching and just emailed packets, leaving it was up to us to teach the materials.

        If you want to WFH too, find a job where that is possible but don’t put us down while building yourself up.

    6. DataGirl*

      Since working from home I usually work 8am-10pm or sometimes later. Yes, that is broken up with breaks to cook actual meals in my kitchen, or to water the yard, or run to the pharmacy, but the fact is I’m doing way more hours now than I did when I was going into the office and have taken on a lot of extra tasks that were not remotely in my job description- like figuring out how remote meeting software works then training all my colleagues on it and providing ‘tech support’- basically just sitting in on meetings that have nothing to do with me in case something goes wrong. A lot of people have stepped up and it has nothing to do with whether they did so in the office, or from home.

  9. Ashloo*

    I assume this isn’t an option logistically since it wasn’t mentioned as a possible solution, but can you complete your part, drop it at the office, and Alice can pick them up and do her special skillset part? Or can you each do half fully at home instead of you doing it all?

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

      That should certainly be an option, and could have been a solution the whole time really if coordinated carefully, but I have a feeling Alice is fighting coming into the office AT ALL, ever.

      1. quill*

        Which she easily could have reasons for, but the point for OP’s manager is that SOMEONE who can come into the office and do Alice’s former duties has to be available, and it can’t continue being OP.

    2. Beany*

      Or some kind of home-to-home delivery service could have been employed, if the materials aren’t too fragile, and it’s not a security or intellectual property risk.

    3. Bewilderd*

      I’m wondering if OP and Alice could collaborate somewhere that isn’t the office. If they’re in the same geographic area, could they work together in a home or rented space? Personally I don’t feel comfortable commuting and working in a large office yet, but I would be fine with meeting with a single coworker. Maybe that would work for Alice?

      1. OP*

        That’s definitely a fair idea — the issue here is that we work on 2-3 of these things per week, so that would still require Alice needing to haul over and meet up with me pretty frequently. I suspect that some version of this may actually be what ends up happening, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s resistant, since it would still require a bunch of commuting on her part!

        1. allathian*

          Even if Alice doesn’t like the change, that doesn’t mean you should have to continue doing the parts of her job that are right in her wheelhouse. If the end product is better if you do your bit and Alice does hers, rather than you doing everything, I would expect any functional business to reassign Alice’s tasks to her. If your employer’s willing to prioritize Alice’s happiness over product quality, you have a more serious problem than just being stuck with tasks you don’t want to do.

  10. LizB*

    It’s so weird to me that the company is offering full-time remote work regardless of the needs of the specific position. Some jobs just can’t be done effectively 100% from home, and it sure sounds like Alice’s is one of them! I’m a huge fan of remote work and flexibility, but this doesn’t seem workable.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Another example of why blanket policies should rarely be used. It’s a common problem at large employers where such policies are issued from the top with no wiggle room for the few necessary exceptions, endlessly annoying managers.

      1. no phone calls, please*

        I agree @Phony. It feels like the company wants to be able to claim and promote itself as having a fully optional WFH without dealing with what that means in the daily operations.

    2. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      I’m quite glad my work hasn’t issued any policies either way about how often people need to be in the office yet (apart from the fact that there will be hybrid working) because they know that they actually do need to think it through and not apply a blanket policy to everyone.

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

      At my org, they have a blanket policy that WFH is allowed* and here is the general agreement to sign, etc.; however, it’s up to each department/supervisor to decide if their people can or should WFH and how to schedule it. The only org-wide dictate is if you do work remotely, you lose your office/cube and have to hot desk if you ever come in — no holding onto spaces. I’m not working from home, so I don’t know all of the details of the agreement, but I assume it has something in there that a supervisor can require, at any time, that remote workers must come in to the office.

  11. J.E.*

    I’m also curious about what kind of work Alice has been doing remotely. If a portion of her job is dealing with products hands could things be reworked so that she does that remotely (if it can be done remotely)? If that part of her job can’t be done remotely I’d look into hiring someone to do that on site.

  12. Mannheim Steamroller*

    It’s time to ask The Question:

    “Which of my tasks should be dropped to accommodate the specific tasks that I have taken over from Alice?”

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      I don’t think it’s quite time for that yet. OP should at least raise the possibility of taking Alice’s work off their plate and getting back to the tasks they like and are good at, which sounds like the option they prefer, first.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Agree with Nobbs; I wouldn’t go there yet unless LW actually wants to keep the tasks but there simply isn’t time for everything, which wasn’t the vibe I was getting from the letter.

      2. Lana Kane*

        Agreed.

        Also, I find that this question backfires more than just rarely. It can come across as presumptuous to some managers if not said in the right tone. You really need to know your manager, because some will just raise an eyebrow say “None, we will need to make it work”. (Not that I’m agreeing with that answer, just that it’s common)

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I advised a coworker to use this idea with our boss, who we thought was pretty rational.
          Boss snapped, “you have enough time to do all the tasks!”
          so that did not go well.

        2. BRR*

          I’m still in favor of this approach but I’ve had it be 0% effective. A positive, supportive manager who was really happy with my work replied “you’re awesome, I know you will be able to get it all done.” Another manager who was super stressed at the time (although that’s no excuse) replied “just get it all done.”

          I have faith though that one day this will work.

          1. Lana Kane*

            I agree that telling your manager that you are starting to have too much on your plate is the right thing to do. It has to be out there, or else you’ll later get questioned about why you didn’t say anything. (No, you can’t win). Essentially I see it more as CYA move than one that will actually get your task list trimmed down. But yeah, framing it as “what can we get off my plate” just doesn’t tend to land well often.

      3. JM60*

        I’m in the minority who disagree. It’s generally inappropriate to ask an employer to yank some offer they made to a colleague, and for all we know, Alice may be relying on the offer of remaining fully remote to remain good. After all, she might be actively taking steps to move hundreds of miles away based on that offer, or she may be someone who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons who is deciding not to look for remote jobs based on the offer to remain fully remote.

        1. JM60*

          To be clear, the OP is 100% in the right to ask the employer to somehow fix this situation they’ve caused. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to ask the employer to withdraw their “fully-remote” offer to the coworker.

  13. Czhorat*

    The issue here may not really be with Alice, but with the manager. Offering remote work when it makes sense is a positive thing! Whether this makes sense long-term depends on how key the in-person only tasks are to Alice’s role. If it’s a small part of what she does and not the real skill she’s being paid for then it makes perfect sense to redistribute that work to others and let her keep her remote work. If it IS one of her core duties then that’s a different conversation entirely.

    In either event, the letter writer absolutely deserves their responsibilities to remain reasonable and at a similar level. This could mean removing some other tasks from them to allow more time for the hands-on work.

    In either event, maintaining WFH flexibility is a positive thing when at all possible. I’m glad to see this.

    1. Bostonian*

      Bingo. We certainly don’t have all the information, and OP might not, either. But OP can definitely lay everything out for the manager to see what’s possible.

  14. T.*

    Cite your commute? It was one thing to take on extra hours from home but x number of those is now part of your commute again. Many salaried WFH employees found they started to do productive work in the time they used to be commuting which benefits the employer yet it’s not especially a burden on the employee.

    1. CTT*

      I don’t think productivity is the issue – LW is working from home and still has the issue that she doing work that she does not enjoy doing or has the specialized expertise for

      1. A Person*

        LW didn’t say explicitly, but it sounded a lot like they will be returning to the office.

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

      I would hope that WFH employees are the ones benefiting from the extra time not commuting — it’s always a burden on the employee to work more hours. We should not normalize giving every minute possible of our lives to work.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, my entire team is remote and some have mentioned putting in longer hours. Not me. I’m watching that clock and you’d better believe that I am OUT of there at 4:00 PM. I’m lucky that I have separate room for an office and I leave the room and am instantly in “home mode”.

  15. Manana*

    What work is Alice doing instead? It seems like LW and Alice are peers, so if LW is doing all of Alice’s work, what does Alice do all day at home?

    1. PJH*

      From the article:

      especially when I am not Alice’s manager (she’s actually senior to me).

      It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that Alice has been getting her own extra work from her higher-ups, and couldn’t do her own (old) job any more.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Yeah this sounds like the pandemic situation may have unearthed things that Alice should be doing instead and the role is shifting.

        Not that OP has to be the casualty in that situation, but it definitely warrants a conversation about what comes next.

      2. Manana*

        I missed the part that she’s senior as she was described as a coworker at the top of the letter. Also missed that LW was also working from home.

  16. SlimeKnight*

    This is a pretty common thing in offices (not just during the pandemic): there is a problem, someone steps in to fill it, management doesn’t think about it again because it isn’t causing them problems.

  17. Cant remember my old name*

    If I’m understanding correctly, even if the LW went fully remote the responsibility would still fall on them – just from home as was the case when everyone was working remote. Is there any way to change the workflow/assembly line where LW can do their part and then hand-off partially completed products to her coworker? I know it was said that people had to be in the same room as the process currently stands, but could the process be adjusted?

  18. Coco*

    Thank y for posting this letter. I am in a very similar situation. My co worker and I do similar work: 80% can be done remotely, 20% cannot. When the pandemic hit we went hybrid. 3-4 days remote and 1-2 days in the office on an alternating schedule. This worked well. My co worker recently announced she is moving to a different state for personal reasons. She has been approved to work remote indefinitely. She is doing fewer duties for the same pay (according to her anyway). Per my boss, I am to take over her in person duties while also doing all my own work. None of my remote work will be shifted to her. I explained why this was not going to work. I simply don’t have enough time in the day. I am also ticked off because I am not getting a raise for taking on these extra duties. I feel like I’m being punished. My boss has been very clear that there is nothing that can be done about this because HR approved her to do this. I like my company as a whole, so I don’t want to leave entirely. But I’m seriously considering making a lateral move to a different department so I don’t have to deal with my boss or my coworker anymore.

    1. Quantum Hall Effect*

      Your boss is wrong, and you have the ability to push back (although you are not entitled to get what you ask for). HR may have approved the remote work, but your boss still has the authority to allocate tasks. I would take that tag with him, not that you are arguing about your coworker’s remote work but that you would like a reallocation to balance your workload. Don’t make it about her workload and whether she is doing less for the same pay. Stick to the impact on you. In fact, you don’t need to bring your coworker specifically into it at all. You can just bring up your increased workload and ask whether certain tasks can be shifted to somebody else. That is a fair ask, but again, you won’t necessarily get what you ask for.

    2. WellRed*

      Make the move. Your boss has the authority, they are choosing not to exercise it and blaming hr. Eff that!

    3. Lizy*

      Push back again with your boss. “The last we talked, you said nothing can be done about this. I feel like I’m being punished for choices out of my control. I enjoy my job, but I simply do not have enough hours to do all of my tasks plus X and Y, and am very seriously considering making a lateral move at this point. If you would like me to train Coworker to do Z, which can be done remotely, I can take on X. Or if you’d prefer for me to do Z, please let me know what other task I should drop.”

  19. Sue Z Q*

    We end up in these pickles because we tend to “take one for the team” and don’t document or bill for the extra hours put in OR document how our production has dropped due to the extra responsibilities OR speak up and say “hey, this isn’t working out so great”. I would suggest that your boss assumes things went great during the work from home arrangements and see’s no reason to go back to the previous arrangement. The conversation should have started months ago!

    1. Lizy*

      I agree – it should have been talked about months ago. But in reality, it’s so, so hard to bring up this stuff. For me, I hate asking for help with my job. I take a lot of pride in the ability to do many things at once and keep all the balls in the air, so telling my boss I don’t have time for X, or that I’m behind, or anything that makes me look (in my eyes) as incompetent just….eeezzzz

      I often fall into the trap of “well Boss *should* know I’m busy because of this”, but I forget that Boss has other things on his mind, and I’m an adult and can and should be able to speak up. It’s odd – I’m typically very good at advocating for myself, but when it comes to advocating for help with work, I throw up walls quicker than Trump’s along the border (lame joke)

  20. Robin Ellacott*

    We had someone ask to stay remote because it had “worked so well” and it was all I could do not to snap back that it only worked well FOR HER because her manager was struggling to do a good 30% of her work, in addition to their own work, for over a year. The tasks in her job are so integrated they can’t easily be done by different people, and remote is hard for us anyway because most jobs have a necessary in person component, and there are a lot of restrictions on how our data is used/stored.

    Despite all this I think she genuinely hadn’t thought about the effect on the in-office team. Alice may be assuming this will all be satisfactorily handled but I’d hope your manager can see the issue as clearly as I did when you discuss it with them.

    1. Workerbee*

      What did your coworker say when you (or others on your team) pointed out the effects?

    2. JM60*

      It sounds like her manager should’ve been informing her along the way that they were taking on a lot of her work. If she mistakenly thought she was doing a good job, she has the right to petition to remain remote permanently.

    3. cncx*

      yup, i knew someone like that who didn’t see a problem with going full remote for a job that wasn’t designed to be done remotely, think front desk, because her boss was doing the mail and phones…she wound up getting laid off and i honestly wonder if her thinking her job could be full remote wasn’t part of it

      I’m all for remote work as long as people are honest about how the in person work is divvied up and like my colleague i wonder if alice and the boss aren’t thinking about the team dynamics. i have another friend who does the mail for his team and scanning once a week and it had to be overcommunicated to his team that driving in, scanning every piece of mail, forwarding to the right people, was four hours a week he couldn’t do his project work.

  21. Lisa Babs*

    I had a thought. It might not be applicable. But I kept on focusing on the part “hands-on work with physical products that our company makes.” Is the hurdle you both have to be in the same room? Or is it that she has to have the product in hand? If it’s the product, can’t it be shipped to her. I mean it’s an extra cost and I’m sure will add time to the process. But I would think the quality of work product Alice would do would be worth the extra cost. I’m just assuming the products can be shipped due to the fact that the OP took them home to work on. So I would think they should be transportable.

    1. Windchime*

      LW mentions that they are currently mailing the product and it’s adding several days to the process and isn’t sustainable long-term.

  22. learnedthehardway*

    One of my clients had had a pile of work landed on her due to the pandemic and people leaving her firm, that was well beyond her job description (and pay grade). She eventually pushed back and told her senior leadership that they needed to either promote her and give her a significant raise or that she was going to go back to her regular role. (They literally would implode if she left, so she was pretty safe to do this). Management said no to the promotion, so she handed the work back and washed her hands of it. Everyone else is losing their minds, but at least she has her work/life balance back. (To be perfectly honest, they were right to not promote her, but they also should not have given her the work to do, because she isn’t qualified to do it and it was starting to show. That’s an unfair position to put someone in.)

  23. EC*

    What has Alice been doing this whole time? Has she been sitting at home doing nothing while you take on two jobs? If both of you need to have hands on the items, why couldn’t a courier have been used to send it to Alice once your part was complete? Why can’t that happen now? Or why didn’t/doesn’t the company just send one item to each of you?

    Its certainly not unreasonable to expect to find this unfair, it is unfair. You should at least have an increase in your pay since you’re doing the work of two people.

    1. Jomola*

      I was thinking the exact same thing! Why can OP do it from home and Alice cannot?

  24. Jomola*

    My passive-aggressive side would want to just stop doing Alice’s job and when someone notices say “Oh my, isn’t Alice doing her job now even though she is remote?” I know that isn’t the most adult way to handle it, so that is where my adult side comes in and says “So what about task x — Alice is going to take that back over, right?” If the boss says “Oh you can still do that!” my response would be “The amount of time it takes for me to do it is not sustainable in light of my other job duties and the fact that quality has suffered because this is not my area of expertise.” Your boss can always tell you this falls under other duties as assigned and that you are going to do it anyway, but then again that tells you alot about who you work for. You can decide then if this is someone you want to continue to work for.

  25. Donkey Hotey*

    Am I the only one who is amused that this is right next to the person who asked about “remote work from the zoo/museum”? I swear, has the concept of being aware of other people just vanished? Or am I arriving late to the party?

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, as if working remotely means we apply “out of sight out of mind” more.

  26. Points for Anonymity*

    Generally I like being in the office, but if my company imposed this ‘anyone can work from home’ but ‘if you don’t, you’ll be covering everyone’s office work’ idea, you bet I’d be a permanent home worker. These decisions/options need to be based on individual job responsibilities.

  27. GalGal*

    There needs to be a discussion about a rebalancing of your workload. It sounds like much, or possibly all, of the work can be done by Alice remotely if the products are sent to her. You need to speak to your manager, and Alice, and probably both of them together as well.

    Managers this thick really annoy me. None of this sort of stuff is brain surgery.

    If it helps your managers engage their brain cells and work this out, you go remote as well for a while. Then they will have to actually sort it out, instead of being lazy.

    And I totally agree with LW requesting that Alice be dragged back in to the office is NOT a good idea, nor will it fix anything.

  28. Stina Neitz*

    Please emphasize the fact that your lack of expertise affects the quality of the company’s product affecting customer satisfaction with the company and potential repeat sales/renewals of services! Show them how not having the expert handle their portion(s) of the product will affect the company profits.

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