my boss is so pro-remote-work that it’s annoying

A reader writes:

My boss, Jane, is a very vocal remote work advocate. She is constantly sharing articles on social media about how work from home is the future, and writing long rants criticizing companies that are bringing people back to the office for needing to “get with the times.”

Our company is finally re-opening the office in a few weeks, and returning is optional for now. Jane has, of course, chosen to stay remote. I have chosen to go back and am very excited to do so because I’ve felt really isolated working from home and have no space for a home office set-up in my tiny apartment.

While she hasn’t said so outright, it’s clear to me that Jane very strongly disagrees with the decision and how not normal she feels it is. When I first told her I wanted to take the in-office option, she responded, “You can go in if you want, but there are going to be a ton of distancing rules and you’ll probably be the only one there.” (I know the latter part isn’t true — I have asked the rest of our small team and the majority are also planning to go back at some point.)

Since then, every time the office has come up between us, she has made comments about how undesirable it is. When I mentioned that I was getting ready to move in a recent one-on-one, she laughed and was like, “Well, good luck. Who knows what it’s going to be like with everything so empty and all the COVID precautions?” When I asked if she knew whether conference room capacity had changed in a different meeting, she answered in a gleeful-sounding tone, “It shouldn’t matter, because nobody else will be using those conference rooms. Nobody’s going to the office. We’re remote now.” When I responded that I knew a few coworkers were going in, she clarified, “Yes, nobody besides them is going to go in.”

I know that it’s reasonable for Jane to try to manage my expectations, but these comments about how miserable the office is going to be and how I’m such an odd one out are really just bumming me out. I was so excited to go back to the office before, but Jane has made me feel really bad about it. I have made my decision to go back, and I’m not sure what benefit these comments are adding. Since I know it’s possible Jane might not realize how negative she is being, is there a subtle way I could try to shut these comments down without straining our relationship?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 286 comments… read them below }

  1. RemoteAlone*

    This may be a silly question, but do you actually have to talk to Jane about your arrangements for working in the office? I ask because in my company, HR has been emailing out the official policies, and Operations has been handling the physical setup, so if your boss isn’t going to be in the office, are there other people/departments you can get answers from so you don’t need to discuss it with Jane?

    1. WhalesRFake*

      It probably depends on the workplace.

      In my previous job, they were anti-mass emails from HR and depended on department heads to spread the word of policies, staff changes, etc. Sometimes this was ok, sometimes the word didn’t spread and you’d keep emailing a person who left a month ago until someone finally told you. They often would have turned you back to your manager for a lot of questions (only for the manager to ask them on your behalf).

        1. Gimble*

          I’m not the poster, but I think they mean that the higher-ups/office culture discourage sending an email to all staff, and prefer to have individual managers be the messengers instead.

    2. Trillian*

      Yes, the key question is how much influence Jane has.

      One thing I’d be tempted to do is make sure that, when I talk to other people, especially senior people, I drop into their ears how much I’m looking forward to getting back into the office. That’ll prevent Jane putting forward her view as representing her entire department. I’ve run into a few too many people keen to sign me up to their cause in my absence.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      And yet the Janes of the world /really/ need you to know how much going into the office doesn’t work for them.

    1. Snailing*

      A bit of a tangent, but I’ve been seeing “glassbowl” a lot recently on AAM and wondering if anyone knows where it comes from originally? It’s very clever!

      1. JokeyJules*

        not sure where it originates from but it’s my grandma’s favorite name to call her neighbor

      2. A Genuine Scientician*

        It comes from the online chats with Carolyn Hax, where certain words can’t appear in print because it’s the Washington Post.

        1. A Person*

          And what’s even better? She got it from a commenter in one of her live chats! :-) (Who knows, maybe it was JokeyJules’ grandma who was writing in.)

  2. Rose*

    I have been hearing so many people saying offices will be both empty and miserable because of social distancing rules. Feels like those two should be mutually exclusive, no??

    So many managers seem to have zero clue/inclination to consider why WFH would be different for their employees. I had a VP at my old job ask why I didn’t go into an office or spare room when my husbands existence was distracting one day. He didn’t seem to believe my apartment was only two rooms (minus the bathroom), and asked wasn’t my basement at least furnished? No, sir, it’s a communal laundry room full of spiders, and the washer is broken.

    All of our execs were working out of what were clearly huge homes with multiple quiet, well equipped work spaces in rooms easily the size of my entire apartment. I saw men ask people making 1/5 of what they made if they could remove themselves from “distractions” aka family members living their lives in the background, as if Nancy had the choice of home office or finished basement and instead opted to be in the room where a child was bouncing around and a grandmother was knitting right behind her. It was painful to deal with.

    1. HoHumDrum*

      YUUPPP

      See also all the “it’s been 1.5 years into the pandemic now, you should have a fully functional remote work station set up by now” crowd. Nah bro, it’s been 1.5 years of powering through despite having a bad work station. Not all problems are fixable through time.

      1. KHB*

        And it doesn’t always make sense to permanently uproot your life in response to a temporary situation. I could afford to move to a place with enough space for a home office if I wanted to, but it would mean giving up my current place 1/2 mile from the office for someplace probably a lot farther away. If we’re back in the office once the pandemic is over, then I’ll be stuck with a higher rent/mortgage bill for a bunch of space I don’t need anymore AND a crappier commute to the office, and why should I want that?

        1. Hush42*

          So much this. My company has, thankfully, been very supportive, accommodating, and understanding about people’s space limitations. But leadership has made it clear that they do not intend for WFH to be permanent and recently released guidelines that require us to be in the office Monday through Thursday with optional WFH Fridays. If I had know that we would WFH from 2 years before that went into effect then I may have invested in a stand up desk and a few other items to make WFH more comfortable (I did end up being forced to purchase a new office chair a few months in because my old one literally collapsed beneath me from all the use it was getting). But my company started, like everyone with “It’s only for a few weeks.”. Then we were going to reopen November 1st 2020. Then we were going to reopen April 1st 2021. Then it was summer 2021. Nows it’s October 4th 2021. But part of the problem is that we were in the middle of renovations when the pandemic hit and they took the opportunity to make it easier and took down all the desks when everyone was at home (but things had started to reopen and the remodeling restarted). I was in the offer conducting a final interview a few weeks ago and I’m not a contractor but it certainly did not look to me like the space would be finished in 6 weeks so I’m getting that the return to the office date gets pushed back to January 2022 at least. Since it’s only ever a few months away it makes it difficult to want to invest in items for the “short” term even though history says it’ll really be the longer term.

      2. BRR*

        And to add on that, so many employers have provided nothing. Thankfully I had a monitor at home because otherwise I would have had to somehow get my work done on only a 13 inch laptop screen that can barely show a spreadsheet. I also work in higher ed so my employer wasn’t really in a position to cover any costs as everyone was furloughed for a few weeks. We were even told at one point that if we had any equipment other than our laptops at home we had to return them to the office (no reason given but very stupid).

      3. noahwynn*

        I’m not about to move to the suburbs for a larger space and increase my commute time. Then they would decide it is time for everyone to return to the office full-time and not understand why we complain about the commute because we chose to to live there.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        I share a tiny 2-bedroom apartment with two other humans and two cats. We don’t make enough money to move to a bigger place even if I wanted to (which I don’t!), so my work from home options are a tiny desk in a cramped shared bedroom with no grounded outlets or sitting at the kitchen table while other people need to literally climb over me to get access food, water, or the bathroom and where the cats will meow constantly for attention.

      5. Oux*

        Exactly! In my old apartment, I was working from my living room (2br, had a roommate). I moved away to live alone because living with someone else at home 24/7 was driving me crazy but due to the increase in rent prices I could only get a 1br for what the 2br cost… So I’m still working in my living room. My new apartment is actually far better laid out so my workstation isn’t visible when I’m sitting on the couch watching TV or playing games but having an actual office to go back to may help me with productivity. Unfortunately with the delta variant we don’t even have an estimate on when that might be.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Heehee, reminds me of when my boss told me it was unprofessional of me to work sitting on my bed at home. Told her that this was literally the only place I had to sit (husband was working from the sofa). She couldn’t quite believe I didn’t have a spare room – ‘but, you don’t have children so you MuST have more room available?’

      Offered to do future calls sat in my car :p

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Wow! I’m a person who does have extra space and have been happily working from home since 2017. However, even with that, I know full well that not everyone has that luxury. Does your manager think that apartments MUST come with an extra room? That is bananas.

        1. It's Not Just A Good Idea*

          Didn’t you know? Landlords are required by law to build on extra rooms if you don’t have children.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Ugh, I hate this nonsense. It didn’t require a pandemic to realize life is different for everyone, but this whole situation really highlighted the disparities and it drives me bonkers when people are so obtuse (often willfully) — especially if they’re the ones setting pay rates. One of my direct reports has to work from a bedroom, but does their best to make things work. Another lives in an areas where passing sirens are common and yeah, you hear it on calls. Are there distractions? Sure. But we make it work.

        1. Em*

          I work from home on a military base, right under the flight path. Helicopters, cargo aircraft and sirens feature largely in my background noise!

        2. Koalafied*

          Honestly, most of the office buildings I’ve worked in were in places where passing sirens were common. The presidential and other executive motorcades are not quiet, nor do they avoid downtown office areas!

        3. Alica*

          My neighbours decided to move out and renovate their entire house last November. I had 5 months of skype calls with me apologising for various drilling and hammering noises in the background. Thankfully the majority of my calls were to my colleagues who were of course understanding!

      3. Gracely*

        “You know, if I were to get a significant raise, I might be able to afford a spare room…”

        But seriously, yuck to your boss.

      4. Filosofickle*

        The family of 5 that lives in the 1BR downstairs, as well as the 4 adults that share the 2BR unit, would have a perspective on this…

      5. Rose*

        You know how kids are! Turn your back for a moment and they’ve put an extension on the house.

    3. Anon for this*

      Very this. I am lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it, I had a bad roommate situation once that was so bad I’m willing to spend more each month for the peace of mind of not having a roommate) enough to have a job that allows me to live on my own. Not everyone is as fortunate or as traumatized as me, and they shouldn’t be expected to be.

    4. Xenia*

      Re: mutually exclusive, if I was the only one in the office and still had to obey Covid protocols (masks, mostly) I’d feel like I was getting the downsides of both being in the office (commute) and of being socially distanced (I don’t do isolation well)

      But while there’s plenty of cluelessness abounding about the capabilities of working from home, it does seem that this is the flip side of the “I want to work remote but my bosses are against it”. Some bosses are going to be just as fanatically pro-remote as their counterpart are anti-remote, and at the end of the day The only solution might be to pack up and go somewhere else

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am literally the only one in my office, and have been since the beginning of the shutdown. Do I wear a mask at my desk? Of course not! That would be silly. I keep one with me and put it on when someone comes in, which is perhaps once a week.

        That being said, I can see an unhappy middle ground where there are enough people that they really should mask up, but not enough to provide the “spontaneous collaboration” benefits we hear about so much.

        1. usually anon*

          This is my workplace now. Higher ed, planning to reopen Sept 16th and ‘easing’ everyone back into the buildings. Masks are required unless you’re lucky enough to have a real office. Of course staff doing the heavy lifting (literally & otherwise) don’t have offices and have been working en maske the whole time. Now more people are in the buildings and everyone is awkward. All the downsides.

    5. miss chevious*

      Ha! In the middle of the pandemic, one of our senior leaders decided to do a cute little presentation on his daily commute now that we were all working from home. His jaunt through his chef’s kitchen, family room, separate movie screening room, and separate home gym to his expensive home office did not go over with the rest of us as well as he had hoped.

        1. it's just the frame of mind*

          Yeah, these people are unbelievable. I feel like if I were in their position I would kinda know how to behave.

      1. Amey*

        Ooh, it’s like the senior manager at my employer who did a video early on in the pandemic about tips and tricks for working at home. She was older, had no children, and talked about work life balance and how important her retired husband cooking and bringing her cups of tea was to managing her increased pandemic workload. It just felt incredibly tone deaf when many of us were struggling to manage that same workload increase while our partners were also working full-time and we were both desperately trying to homeschool/take care of traumatised children.

        1. Green Beans*

          Ha. Reminds me when I came back from a last-minute international trip and my boss gave me the next day off (which was nice!) and then was like, “oh I bet you slept a lot.”

          …I’m single, so I unpacked, did laundry, got groceries, took care of my cat, all that good stuff. I did get a nice night’s sleep but I also had to do a ton of other stuff…

          1. Tara*

            My girlfriend works (worked, is on her notice!) at a Big Law Firm, which usually provides employees with delivery allowances to get food if they’re working late. They canned these when work from home started, on the basis that the staff (who were working over 20 hours a day) would have other people to cook for them. One day I had to go into the office and my girlfriend had only been able to leave her chair to go to the bathroom the entire workday, never mind to cook. Another friend who worked at a similar firm had to live off of cereal for the week her deal signed. It’s such a harmful and idiotic view to assume people always have others who can and are willing to constantly look after them.

            1. Jane of all Trades*

              Same!!! And during a really busy time where I was stuck eating 3 meals of cereal a day because how are you going to cook when your workday ends past midnight – I was on so many calls where the partners (who all have stay at home wives, or wives who cut back on their own jobs to further their husbands’ careers) would joke about all the money the firm is saving because they don’t provide dinner reimbursements during covid…
              I’m with you, OP – I go to the office (where I have access to easy food) pretty regularly, and if people commented on it I would just say that it’s incredibly difficult to work all day and not see a single person for days on end. Most people understand that, they just never reflect on how difficult but different other people’s circumstance have been during this time.

              1. Tara*

                Yeah, I have a career, but more of an 8am-6pm one rather than an 8am-3am one, and although I had more time to cook and clean compared to her, it was hard not to be resentful doing all of it when there was increased mess because we were WFH full time. If she was given money from her firm to order in a couple of nights (so no cooking or related dishes), it would have made things easier for us both.

          2. Gan Ainm*

            I used to be the chief of staff for a company VP, at a very large company. We traveled about 60-75% of the time. He came home to a clean house, food in the fridge and dinner cooked, and handed his suitcase to his wife to unpack / wash / bring to the dry cleaner. I came home to messy apartment thanks to roommates who let the place go to pot while I was away, no food (of my own) in the fridge, hauled my stuff in bags down the street to the coin op laundry at the laundry mat and dryer cleaner, with mail stacked up sky high to sort, etc. And he thought I could “relax” on the weekends when we got home from a week away on a Friday. No, im running around like a crazy person so I can get ready for the next trip on Monday. I got very very efficient at it, but it was not the same experience and he did not get it.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        What is WRONG with people??
        Like my old boss, upon hearing that a staff member was looking at purchasing a small house in a coastal community, “oh, a vacation beach house?” Uh no.The staff member makes $60k a year and lives with a roommate in an apartment (very expensive area). And boss was the one who was so conscious of never “over paying” employees.
        I just did an eye roll so big I think I hurt myself

      3. Lacey*

        Oh brother! This is like when our C-Suite people tell us all about their big European vaca and then ask what we’re doing on vacation. Like, “I might drive one state over and visit my mom?”

      4. Angelica*

        Hold up, I got one.

        My company, a multi-billion dollar company that’s like 85% essential workers put out a REQUIRED WATCHING video – it counted as a training exercise – where they blew their own horn of how great they were to us during the pandemic.

        After they cut us down from two to one reviews per year, meaning we only get one raise per year now. Allegedly the same amount, but I doubt it.

        After they slashed our labor hours, leaving us scrambling to keep up.

        After a whole bunch of other things I fear would be too identifying. So I’m just gonna stop there.

        Made us all watch a 15 minute video of them patting themselves on the back, rather than just letting me do my damn job.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I don’t have a good workspace at home and I don’t get paid enough to move to a bigger place.

      (My workplace isn’t pressuring us to stay home, and it wouldn’t make sense for my job specifically, but if they were and it did, I still have a ready answer.)

      1. CTT*

        And even if one was paid enough, the real estate and rental markets are so bonkers (at least in the US) that moving into something bigger seems impossible.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Yup, this. I was planning to move this year at the end of my 18-month lease – but then the pandemic happened, raises were frozen at my company in 2020, so I wasn’t able to save up enough to rent a bigger place in 2021. I just got promoted this year with a 13% pay increase (after receiving a COL adjustment of almost 3% from my last position), so with this nearly 16% raise, I thought I would be good to go with moving into something bigger next year.

          Well, I took a look at the rental prices in my current building and our sister properties, and the rent has skyrocketed after plummeting in 2020. I may have to hunker down in this studio for a little while longer if these prices don’t come back down soon.

          1. fantomina*

            I only managed to move because a unit opened up in my building (same landlord) with the same square footage divided into more rooms. It’s only slightly higher rent for a separate space for WFH, where I’m paying not for more space but more walls, lol

            1. Fran Fine*

              I may look into doing something similar to be honest with you. There’s a studio that’s the same square footage right down the hall from me that has a slightly different layout (I have a balcony and that one has bay windows) – if that unit becomes available next year, I’d talk to my property management company about transferring to that unit at the same price I’m paying now because then I’d have room for a desk (I’d put it where the bay windows are)! I’m so annoyed I have a balcony because that’s about 40 sf I could use for a mini office instead of having to work from my dining room table these past 27 months.

              1. allathian*

                What’s your climate like? Are you in a very noisy area?

                I know people in tiny apartments who’ve used their (admittedly glassed-in) balcony as an office when the temperature’s been neither too hot nor too cold to work outdoors.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          If you were certain that this is really truly a permanently fully remote job, you could buy a mansion in one of the more remote parts of flyover country. But lack of local jobs is only one reason why people dont live in those places. And how confident can one be that this job is really truly permanently fully remote?

          1. CTT*

            I actually live in a place that’s being touted as a Great Place To Work Remotely!! (not flyover country, but a mid-sized city in a state with lots of big ones) and I am a wee bit resentful that the full-time remote people who are moving here are contributing to the real estate scarcity.

            1. Trillian*

              Forgive me for laughing.

              But “things set in Montana” (Joe Picket audiobooks et al) have been helping get me through my own lockdown. Building management said oh noes, we can’t put off all this major renovation any longer (like it didn’t need done ten years ago), and the government says, We Must Close All The Things (except the ones that make our buddies money), so I’ve been working in a construction site since June 2020.

              So one of these days, I’m going to come and see Montana.

          2. Teapot Repair Technician*

            But lack of local jobs is only one reason why people dont live in those places.

            Very true. As a young person, I thought nothing of moving across country to a state where I knew no one. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was the right choice. Most of my old friends I never saw again. Even my family members I’ve only seen maybe a dozen times in the last 20 years.

            Today I would be very hesitant to move to another part of the country, even though it means I could enjoy a lower cost of living. I’ve spent two decades becoming part of the community here and with only another few decades left to live (probably) I don’t really feel like starting over again.

            1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              I recently moved to one of those “flyover country” places, in a very small town. Real estate prices locally are low, that’s true. But…
              -Groceries are a lot more expensive. I can easily pay twice as much as I used to for crappier produce. There’s a lot of farming locally, but it’s more “vast fields of grain” than “good tomatoes.”
              -I spend a lot more time and money driving because it takes me 45 minutes on the highway to get to the nearest Wal-Mart, or the hardware store, or the doctor, or the vet, or…or…
              My spouse who works from home does have a *very* nice corner office in one of the bedrooms we wouldn’t otherwise be using, but we pay for that space in other ways.

        3. Violet Fox*

          Around here (not US), both were bonkers well before the pandemic.

          Where I work, when we reopened the buildings (loads of individual or shared offices helped with that a lot) at lower capacity, we gave priority to people who’s home situation made work from home hard.

        4. Oux*

          I’m in Canada and same. I had to move away from my last shared apartment for many reasons, but I definitely didn’t pick a great time… For several reasons I’m hoping that the office starts opening back up early next year.

    7. Marie*

      I have all the “no great working space at home” problems. But I also have been suffering from horrific allergies since I’ve been living 24/7 in a 100 year old house that has been poorly remodeled a million times. And “clean more” isn’t a super viable option when both you and your partner are working 10-12 hour days. I can’t wait to go back to HEPA filtered air full time.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Air con. Air con. Air con.

        I know this is more of a UK issue because our homes are incredibly rarely air conditioned but everyone I know with an airconed office wanted to be there when we have our now yearly and getting worse heatwaves.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Oh so very very much agreed. I had to call in sick when we got over 30c here because I couldn’t cool down. No air con, our houses are built to keep the heat IN, I’m on medications that mean I don’t sweat…

          Oh I missed my server room.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            If you have the space for it, I do recommend getting one of the portable aircon units (there’s which reviews etc. out there). It will at least give you one cool room a day and it’s only going to get worse year on year…

            1. usually anon*

              We’re in the PNW and finally invested in a portable A/C for our 800sf cabin. It is a lifesaver, along with our 2 air cleaners, when there is both heat and wildfire smoke. Sylvane is a good company to buy both species of ‘droids’ from.

              1. lilsheba*

                I’m in the PNW and have had a/c for years now, since my last pregnancy 25 years ago. I can’t live without it now. I am diabetic and so heat makes me sick, plus I’m on meds that make heat make me feel sick on top of it. I have to be cool. Most offices are always too warm for me anyway so I’m glad I can work from home.

              1. Another British poster*

                That sounds rough. I’m really grateful I’m in London where it’s hardly ever really hot. I mean it’s August and it’s freezing right now, brr!

          2. allathian*

            I’m in Finland, and while heat pump-based AC is becoming more common, it’s still fairly unusual. Our houses are also built to retain the heat. Last summer, some of my coworkers got special permission to go into the office when we were all remote, because during the heatwave their apartments were simply too hot to work in, around 28-30 C.

            I was very happy to have a movable AC unit during the heatwave we had.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              Heat pumps for both heat and AC are becoming more common where I live (Canadian Maritime provinces) and OMG I adore ours. We put in two ductless units last year and they’ve made things so much better in both winter and summer.

              Plus, if you already have ducted heating in your house (we did not) you can get ducted heat pumps as well!

          3. londonedit*

            The trouble with living in London is that while the office may be gloriously air-conditioned, getting there involves spending half an hour on the hottest Tube line known to man! Thankfully my flat doesn’t get too hot in the summer – it only really heats up in the afternoon, so when it was 35+ degrees last summer I was useless after about 3pm, but at least I didn’t have to deal with the ridiculous temperatures on the Underground (every summer there’s always a news report about how the temperatures on some of the Tube lines are higher than the legal limits for transporting animals, yet there we are sweating away…)

        2. Irish girl*

          Not just a UK issue, I live in the Northeast US in a old home with no central AC. The best thing in the summer is being able to go into the office with the AC. My basement office doesnt have a window to install an AC in.

        3. Tara*

          In the August heatwave last year I moved and didn’t have internet for a while, which meant I got to go to the air conned office. It was a beautiful 3 days.

      2. Fran Fine*

        I, too, am having horrible allergy problems and recurring sinus infections from being quarantined in my apartment all the time and wearing masks on the rare occasions I venture out to get my mail or go to the dentist/doctor. It’s dreadful.

      3. iliketoknit*

        Exactly. I have three cats I love dearly and am allergic to, and didn’t realize how much being in the filtered, AC-ed office 9-6ish helped reduce my symptoms. And we’ve bought three AC units since starting WFH (to be fair we’d definitely have benefited from them before WFH, but it was easier to lie on the sofa waiting for the heat to pass when we really only suffered on weekends; trying to work that way was impossible).

      4. Ac*

        You’ve probably already looked into the possibility, but in case you haven’t – you can buy air filtration systems, they start at around $80. They’re basically a fan with a HEPA filter and maybe an UV light. Just make sure the capacity of the unit exceeds the volume of the space you’re intending to use it in.

        It’s possibly too loud to use during video calls though.

      5. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I hear you with the allergies. I am currently looking at getting an air purifier, hopefully before winter. Maybe look into that?

        1. Clisby*

          We bought one for our bedroom when my husband’s allergies were really going crazy. It’s really been a help, with the added benefit of being a white noise machine.

    8. Cj*

      re: your first paragraph, I thought that, too. If nobody is there, who would you need to social distance from?

    9. sofar*

      THHIIIISSS. I almost cried with relief when one of our new execs and I bonded over both of us working from the kitchen table.

      This was after a year of trying to conduct webinars and everyone at the company asking if I had better lighting somewhere else, if I could “just use” my livingroom as a background (because my professional Zoom background looked “too fake,”), asking if I had a room with less of an echo, asking if I could move away from the construction noise (such as “into a basement”). I had one person ask if I could create a “curated and neat” shelf to sit in front of. In my open-concept SMALL living space.

      1. Rose*

        Argggggg this was basically exactly the conversations I was having and it made me want to SCREAM. Like no I am no going to pay what would ultimately amount to hundreds of dollars (shelves are NOT cheap) to buy and hang shelving and then buy some assortment of nic-nacks, all in my very tiny very minimalist space, for what is hopefully a temporary situation??? And what an insane thing to ask for. I think my work wanted book shelves?? It doesn’t look like we’re faking anything. What an inane comment. It looks like we’ve set up a small very empty space so that we can work without a distracting background and without showing our private homes. In other words, it looks EXACTLY like what it is.

        The same people asked me over and over as over if I could move to somewhere with better light. I don’t know how many ways or times I can say this is literally the only available sitting space in my home to make them believe it. You would think my freckles were somehow relevant to our work. You could see me fine; sometimes it wasn’t as crisp as it could be, but you could always see my whole face, my lips moving, my expressions, etc. It just makes me so angry.

        1. GL*

          To be fair, bad lighting can be an access thing – we did a session at my office looking at how set up can impact how well you can hear and see people, particularly for those who are hard of hearing because auto captions can be.. misleading. Light behind the speaker can also be particularly hard on the viewers eyes. I was able to improve my set up by buying a small, inexpensive desk lamp.

    10. mreasy*

      And you can see similar lack of understanding happening for those execs with offices who are enthusiastic about returning to work – whereas those of us in the open office concentrate so much better at home, even if we don’t have a dedicated space.

    11. Missy*

      Yep. I have a very small apartment. I am the only person in my department that doesn’t own at least one home. A lot of the stuff they were all doing for WFH (setting up the laptop in the backyard, creating a dedicated office space, etc) are just not an option for me. I also have my own office (with 4 walls and a door that closes) and so it was just easier for me to come in there with the fast internet and the multiple monitors.

    12. Lizzie*

      Oh that’s frustrating. Thankfully none of my bosses had any issues with my WFH setup. granted we didn’t have a lot of zoom calls or meetings, but if we did, and someone asked if I could “move somewhere with less distractions” i’d be a bit peeved. While I live alone, its in a 1BR and my office is my dining room.

  3. RJ*

    Great letter and a situation that many of my former co-workers are encountering with their own WFH/WFO zealots at present. Excellent advice from Alison to attempt to broaden Jane’s perspective by relating your own situation, OP. It won’t change her mind, but it might make her take a step back to realize how noxious and toxic it is to constantly harp her zealotry on you when you have different lives and consequently different perspectives.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yes! Can’t we just agree that different things work for different people & their tasks/situations.

      1. KK*

        This! Right now (and hopefully it’ll stay this way, seeing as the supervisor who heavily implied I should be coming in daily is quitting) I pick where I work each day, and I choose based on what I have going on.

        Days I’m doing all reading/research, I work from home. My desk is in between two high traffic work stations, with equipment many people use. It can be so distracting, even though most of the time they aren’t necessarily being super loud or anything. So I do that stuff at home, but keep slack open/my email open so if I need to be reached I can be.

        If I need to go in I go in no questions asked. The hybrid is working really well for me and I hope it stays this way.

        1. NOK*

          Same here. I’m LOVING the productivity benefits of the hybrid approach. Having the option makes both “types” of days (WFO and WFH) markedly better.

          1. Lizzie*

            I’m hoping for this as well. Right now, we only go in one day a week. After Labor Day, however, its supposed to go “back to normal” whatever that is.

            Pre-pandemic I hated WFH. i only did it when absolutely necessary. unlike my co-workers who did at least one day a week, regularly. I’d like to do a hybrid schedule as well; preferably twodays in the office, 3 WFH but I suspect it will end up being the opposite, 3 in office, 2 WFH. but there hasn’t been any further guidance, so fingers crossed!

    2. Van Wilder*

      I agree w/ Alison’s analysis of Jane’s psychology. I am a lot like Jane. I don’t want anyone to go back because I don’t want to go back. I’m afraid if others go back and I don’t, I’ll be at a disadvantage. But that’s my own problem and I manage not to burden others.

      1. Green Beans*

        Honestly, I’m team “never work remote again if at all possible” and if you can do your work from home without making my life more difficult, I just don’t care where you work. If WFH works for you, do that, if an office is better, work there.

  4. Just a Thought*

    I am one of those people who just plain prefers to work in the office. Even with there being MUCH fewer people – somedays only 4 people and we use to have over 50 in the office – it is a bit of socialness and a bit of work in person. Its nice. Most of my work is, of course, with staff who are remote. That is also fine. But give me my desk and my filing cabinets and leaving my job at the end of the day anytime!

    1. The Rural Juror*

      That was a big difference for me, too. I had my filing system back! And then I got to go home and relax at the end of the day. Plus, my roommate and I were having a hard time working from home at the same time. It was a breath of fresh air to go back to the office!

      1. Snowball*

        I used to live in a really small 2 bedroom, with a roommate who worked shifts at a hospital while I worked a 9-5 (really more like a 7-6 but whatever). I’m so glad (and I’ve told her this – we’re still friends) that we did not live together during the pandemic because I would either be working from my bed or trying to work at the table in the living room when half the time she was living her life because she was not working during my work hours!

        1. Oux*

          Living with my roommate during the pandemic nearly destroyed our friendship. I actually moved into my own apartment because I just couldn’t do it anymore. They were home 24/7 and so was I and that is just awful for me.

    2. The vault*

      Sometimes it’s just good to be away from home. If you are single or alone in your home it can get really depressing and isolating. Even if there are no other people in the office – it’s a change.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes! I don’t live alone, but I’ve gone into the office a few days here and there and being in a workspace instead of my home is so helpful, even when I don’t see anyone all day except the security guard in the lobby.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I mean, I love my husband, but it’s nice to not spend 24/7 with him. Especially after a year or so of this!

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I live with my elderly (though able-bodied; they don’t need me there) and retired parents, and you better believe I look forward to going to work. It’s just a lot of people at home, all the time.

        My office was always sparsely-inhabited and all of my coworkers are vaccinated and enthusiastic mask-wearers when we’re in shared spaces–work is almost the only place I can go that’s not at home.

      3. EmKay*

        Boy howdy. I’ve taken to chit chatting with the cashier at my corner store because he’s the only IRL interaction I have these days.

        And I’m a little shocked by this development, tbh.

      4. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Yup.

        My “office” is my dining room table. My officemates are either 1 teaching remote husband + 2 daycare-age kids (Focus? What’s focus?”) or else a single cat who’s bored and steps on my keyboard constantly.

        I don’t necessarily want to go back to the office full time, but BOY would I like to see people I am not related to again on a regular basis.

      5. Snowball*

        This is why I’ve started to go into the office once or twice a week. I just need to get out of my apartment! (Plus some other perks, like central AC). I’m not the only one in the office, but no one else on my team has been going in

    3. Nora*

      I’m the only person going into my office on the one day of the week I do go in, but it’s still nicer than being at home alone because I get to get out of the house and say hi to the bus driver and get lunch someplace different. Not to mention the faster internet and two monitors and a real phone and a huge desk. My dream is that one day I’ll be able to go into the office for two consecutive days so that I can leave my computer in the office overnight.

    4. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Yes! For me, it is the actual physical act of GOING TO WORK and then GOING HOME that helps me get into work mode, and then shift back into non-work mode. If I were just going to my spare room, it’s just….not the same.

      1. noahwynn*

        This, so much this. I never realized how much my commute actually helps be shift in and out of work mode until we were all stuck at home last year.

        1. lilsheba*

          First off I’ve never felt “stuck” at home, I love my home! And secondly I don’t have a problem separating work from home when it’s just in another room. I love my setup and would just die if I ever had to commute again.

          1. allathian*

            Agreed, I don’t feel stuck at home either. I love my workspace and I love my family.

            That said, I’m really glad that I didn’t have to WFH when my son was a toddler and I’d just returned to work from my 2-year parental leave. At the time, I really needed my 40-minute commute to switch from mommy mode to work mode and back again.

            Now I usually try and get some exercise, even if it’s just walking around the block or going for a 30-minute bike ride, to reset my brain after work. It also helps that our son’s in in-person school and my husband’s working on the ground floor and I’m on the first floor.

            But I do get it that people who have less space, live alone, or live with others who make focusing on work difficult (kids, roommates, partners, parents…), or simply crave the company of other adults who are neither family members nor roommates want to go back to the office.

      2. Hush42*

        Same, I never realized before going WFH how much my environment and daily actions i.e. driving to the office effect my mindset for the day. I honestly am one of the people who can’t wait until our offices reopen because I do so much better with those “switches” as part of my daily routine. While working from home I find it sooo much harder to concentrate even though I live alone. I’ve realized it’s because my brain isn’t getting that signal that’s its work time to switch to work mode. So I’m easily distracted by thoughts of all the home things I need to get done because they’re all around me.

        1. Lizzie*

          I am right there with you on the distractions! I also live alone and keep seeing stuff that needs to be “done” And not going to lie, there are days i am supremely unproductive work-wise because the urge to do all the things is stronger than the actual urge to work.

      3. Tazzy*

        I read a comment maybe a month ago from someone that gets dressed and walks around the block once in the morning before work and then in the opposite direction after work just to give themselves some illusion of “going to work”. A good idea for people that live in a walkable neighborhood!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I was doing that in early 2020 and loving it…and then a bear moved into the neighborhood. Somehow I lost my enthusiasm.

        2. Another British poster*

          What a good idea! I sometimes go out for coffee before starting wfh but it’s kinda wasteful.

    5. Annie Moose*

      Yes, same!! I’m doing a hybrid schedule right now and it’s wonderful. I had gotten used to fully remote, but after getting the chance to return to the office, I realized I had really just resigned myself to it and made the best of a situation I couldn’t change–I was so happy and more productive when I got to actually be back in the office!

      I’m one of the types where I’m hoping to keep doing hybrid instead of fully in the office/fully remote but I completely get the folks who want to do office all the time. Even if you have a good setup at home, just being able to see people… being able to have a casual conversation at the coffeemaker… being able to drive home and completely put work out of your mind because work is Officially Over… there are so many beautiful things about working in an office…

      1. Gracely*

        Hybrid is the perfect balance for me, too. Unfortunately we lost it a couple months ago (grandboss is a butts-in-seats-guy), but for the year or so that I had it, doing mornings remote and afternoons at work was the perfect mix for me. It made my time in-office so much more focused, too; I knew I had to prioritize the stuff that could only be done in-office while I was there. I’m honestly less focused now that I’m here all the time, because I can do anything whenever. But I definitely understand people who want to be back in the office full-time; there’s a work/home delineation that’s important.

        (It’s possible my kitties are even more upset about me not working mornings remote anymore, as they used to snuggle me while I sat working on the computer. One has taken to forcibly snuggling/sitting on top of me when the alarm goes off.)

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Hah, that’s what I wanted to do–morning at home, afternoon in office dealing with the mail.

        2. iliketoknit*

          Yes, I definitely like mixing it up within a day, not just by day! I find being in the office *all* day a little exhausting, but going in in the afternoons works much better.

      2. TechWorker*

        I’m still fully at home but the long term plan is 3 or 4 days in office and the rest wfh and I cannot wait! I hate days when I work long hours and don’t leave the house so my walk to the office is a good reset, I really miss social interaction with colleagues. But wfh does give me more time/flexibility to exercise and I’m looking forwards to the mix.

      3. AY*

        I’m hybrid (2-3 days in office per week), and one great benefit is going back to my favorite lunch places! Even pre-pandemic, I only ate out once a week, but now it feels like even more of a treat.

        Abundant supplies and face-to-face conversations are also much appreciated.

    6. Your Local Password Resetter*

      I also prefer the office. It helps a lot with the work-life balance, especially if you dont have the room for a seperate work space.

    7. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I prefer working from the office, even though I have a pretty good set-up at home, because the signals around me at home are other people relaxing and having a good time while I work, and the signals around me at the office are other people working.

    8. CargoPants*

      I’m kind of surprised how much I enjoyed being in the office this year. I returned in March and just recently went back to wfh. I’m fortunate to have a dedicated space at home, but I get really distracted by my pets, things I could be doing around the house, and my 3 year old – my husband is a SAH parent and takes care of her, but sometimes you just can’t avoid the Tornado that is a 3 year old who wants her mom. :) Also my office has better internet!

      But I realized my enjoyment of working in the office vs wfh was due to the job itself. At my previous job, I hated it and wanted to leave – so working from home was a godsend because I didn’t have to be around all the awful people in that job, and I could save my energy for getting actual work done. Now that I’m in a much better environment, it’s nice to go into the office. I still enjoy a few days here and there because sometimes I just can’t be arsed to put on real pants.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        My wife does certain kinds of meetings from the office just because it has commercial instead of residential internet! I think the reliability is pretty similar, actually, but somehow it feels less unprofessional for your office internet to cut out in the middle of taking a deposition remotely than for it to happen on your home connection.

      2. Ori*

        Yep. I realised I don’t so much like working at home, I like not being around That Guy and his temper tantrums.

    9. LizM*

      Yup. On a personal level, my marriage is much healthier when one of us leaves the house from time to time, and I have a short commute to reset and transition from home to work, and then back to home, vs. it all just blending together into one, unending groundhog day.

      1. Daisy Avalin*

        My OH was furloughed, during part of the first lockdown in the UK, and I swear to all the Gods, the only reason I didn’t kill him during that time is because I was classed as an essential worker and therefore still went into work! That separation between us was absolutely necessary!

    10. londonedit*

      I really like working from home, but I’m fortunate enough to live by myself and I have a nice little desk to work at and no interruptions. However, I am looking forward to going back to the office a couple of days a week. I live in London because I love the city, so I can’t wait to get back to going into central London for work, and I think the combination of having a few days a week at home and a couple of days in the office will really work for me. I don’t think I’d want to go back full-time, but a hybrid situation would be great and luckily that’s what my employer is offering.

      I have younger colleagues, though, who live in shared houses, and they cannot wait to go back to the office full-time. Which I can completely understand – they’ve been working and living in their bedrooms for 18 months, they’ve had to deal with spending all day every day with four or five housemates, and a lot of them feel very disconnected from their work. I’m older and not at a point where I’m really looking to advance in my career, but a lot of people in entry-level jobs really do feel like they’re missing out on learning and networking by not being in the office.

  5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I work half and half (it’s impossible to do IT support remotely 100% of the time at this place) and my immediate manager has expressed a few rather strident views on how I shouldn’t be in the office at all.

    Believe me, I know the risks of Covid. Probably better than anyone else working here. But I also can’t go round to people’s houses to fix their computers, and frankly my house is tiny and really not equipped for a disabled person to work from permanently.

    The chain of command here tends toward the informal in terms of speech (which, yes, has it’s own problems) so I’ve got away with ‘yeah, I remember you saying that but it’s not gonna change my work needs’. Or I’ve pointed out that what works best for her to do her job is not the same as what works for me and I’ve done all the risk assessments and got all my vaccines.

    Mostly though these days I tune it out. Just like when she starts banging on about her opinions on how my life/health/happiness could be better.

    1. Green Beans*

      I work in a research center that does COVID research and I went back as soon as I could (July 2020). I appreciate the extra flexibility, but being on site is really important for me, and our prevention efforts have been extraordinarily effective.

    2. cncx*

      Also do IT support and have been doing hybrid since the home office rules in my jurisdiction were relaxed.
      I don’t have the space at home (1 bedroom apartment) and don’t want work energy in my apartment anyway, plus so much is easier from work from the ergonomics point of view.

  6. Generic Name*

    In case you were wondering, your manager is being weird and totally clueless. She must have a serious lack of empathy to not be able to understand that not everyone enjoys working from home. The coworkers I have who love working from home typically have the following in common: they live in large suburban houses, they have entire rooms dedicated as their office, they do not have children, they do not have roommates, and they do not have to share their office space with a spouse. Those people also seem to prefer working in absolute silence and do not have much of a need for human interaction (no shade; introverts are great!). Like you, plenty of people like the energy and in-person interactions that comes from working in an office.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yes! I spent one day a week at the office last month. (Rates going up sent most of us back to fully remote.) People are exhausting. And loud.

      I have a one-bedroom apartment, but it was built in the days when people made buildings for humans, so I have rooms to choose from, & I can walk to a nearby store when I need (limited) social interaction.

      But I know people who really want to be in the office again. And I get that.

        1. Dwight Schrute*

          I’ve been in 1Br apartments that have separate rooms for the kitchen/dining/living room area plus the bedroom so maybe that’s what they’re talking about?

          1. Clisby*

            Yes, I have, too. My grad school daughter lives in an apartment like that now – big living room and bedroom, smaller dining room and really small kitchen – but she has plenty of choices on where she can work remotely.

            1. londonedit*

              Yes – I have a studio flat (so no bedroom!) but it was also purpose-built as a studio flat in the 1960s, so it has a huge main room, a balcony, a separate kitchen that’s big enough for a small table, and a bathroom with a proper-sized bath with a shower over it. The studio room is big enough for a day bed, another small sofa, a little desk, two wardrobes and a wall of bookshelves/TV unit. It’s bigger than a lot of modern one-bed flats, and it’s much bigger than the classic studio flats you get in Victorian houses that have been split up into flats – most of those are of the ‘bedroom with a kitchenette in the corner and a tiny bathroom’ variety.

          2. Lizzie*

            That’s kind of how my apt is set up. It’s older, built in the 60’s, so while my LR and DR go from front to back, my kitchen and bedrooms are separate rooms. But I’ve seen other newer apartments that have an open floor plan for all but the bedroom and bathroom.

        2. Mynona*

          One glorious 1bd I formerly rented had: living room, dining room, patio, walk-in closet. It was fantastic, and cheap because of an undesirable location.

    2. Anonymous here*

      Or they have another reason to not work at home — I personally love WFH except for my one day a week teaching (I truly hate teaching online). BUT right now my spouse is having mental health difficulties, and I have to get out of the house for my own mental health and to actually get work done. So I’m going into the office most days.

    3. Teapot Repair Technician*

      The commute might also be a factor.

      With a 15 minute commute, I find it easier (and only slightly more time consuming) to hop in my car and drive to work than to clear off the dining room table and set up my computer. The reverse process is even easier.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, many of the arguments for remote work in the post-covid world that I have seen tend to boil down to commute. If the commute is relatively short, people tend to not be as bothered about going into the office. If the round trip commute takes an hour or more? People are often much happier to not be spending that time in traffic / on the highway / on public transportation.

    4. Lunch Ghost*

      The funny part for me is that my ideal level of social time seems to be right around the level I get working in the office. I never thought to account for that, and assumed I was pretty far to the introvert side of the spectrum because I didn’t need much social time. Then I had to work at home for a while and realized in short order that THAT little socializing does not work for me.

      1. allathian*

        Mmm. I’m pretty introverted too, although I’m a chatty introvert. I’ve come to realize that I get most the social time I need pretty much from my family. While I was happy to see my friends again this summer, I’m not unhappy if most of my socializing with them is on WhatsApp and by phone. I’m sure I’d feel differently about WFH if I lived alone.

        I’m less tired after a workday when I’ve been WFH than I would be if I had to go into the office. I’m a chatty introvert, so I actually enjoy talking to other people, at least in moderation. I really enjoy chats around the water cooler and during coffee breaks, but I also find them draining. But I suspect that I’ve pretty much completely lost the ability to focus on work while others around me are talking. My main work requires almost no synchronous collaboration, and what little is required is easy to do by phone or on Skype. Brainstorming during development days and the like is a different matter.

        Ideally, I’d go to the office once a month or so for our development days, because those are honestly no fun to do on video. I would be happy to go about two days a week or so, if necessary. We were allowed to WFH even before the pandemic, although I rarely did so, because I just used my laptop on our dining room table. But when we were sent home in March 2020, the first thing I did was to set up a proper home office.

    5. RMATSON*

      I’ve been WFH since 2017 when we moved from a tiny place in an expensive city to a large place in a smaller and more blue collar city 4 hours west, and all except the “working in absolute silence” is my situation. Much more space with a fully dedicated office area, no kids, hubby works from home too but he’s got his own office so we don’t fight over space or distract each other. Not at all quiet here though — I love though that I can blare my music and sing aloud or listen to podcasts without headphones. I’ve never thought of myself as an introvert but dealing with coworkers constantly interrupting my work to prattle on about non work items (or to expect me to drop everything to put out their fires) is exhausting just remembering it. Though I don’t judge those who want to go back to the office, and if I didn’t have all this space or if I had kids to wrangle, I might be one of them.

    6. RemotelyCommenting*

      Hah, guilty as charged on all accounts. (House, office room, no kids). I do need human interaction, but I get it outside of work from friends and family. Which, given how many times I’ve left companies and no one has made any effort to reach out, feels like a much more future proof social investment. I’d hate to retire and have no one. Now I can plan to retire to spend more time with my friends.

  7. Xavier Desmond*

    I think Alison hit the nail on the head. Jane is clearly concerned that if enough of her team prefer going into the office long term she will be forced back in too. My advice would be to just ignore her comments and they will probably die down over time.

    1. Nicotena*

      Yep, that’s my guess too. Jane has realized that if the majority of her team is on-site and she’s supposed to be the manager, that basically obligates her to go in person more often than she likes. Sadly, that’s sometimes what it means to be in charge. Nobody’s forcing her to stay in that role though.

    2. Annie Moose*

      I wonder if Jane is questioning her decision and is reacting by lashing out against the alternative–like a part of her is going “y’know maybe it’s wrong for me to be fully remote, maybe I really should go into the office”, and rather with working things out internally like an adult, she’s doubling down by insisting that it’s actually the in-office people who are wrong.

      I agree that once OP and others are back in the office, assuming things work out fine, Jane will probably drop the subject.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Nah, I don’t think she’s questioning her position. I think Nicotena hit the nail on the head – the manager loves working from home, but most of her staff wants to go back in office at least part of the time, so the optics don’t look great if she’s their leader and is never in the office when she could be as well. Her manager could decide that if everyone else is in the office, it doesn’t make sense for one person to be remote full time, especially the team leader, and will revoke that privilege to be consistent.

        1. Nicotena*

          She probably figures if she can convince people on her team to voluntarily not return, or even just return a lot less, the optics are better for her to stay remote. But she can’t *tell* OP directly not to go in.

    3. SMH*

      Maybe OP should state that every time Jane makes a comment. ‘Well it won’t be long before they bring all of us back so I might as well come in to the office now.’ Maybe if she says this over and over Jane will get it.

  8. Guacamole Bob*

    I’m going back a couple days a week soon, and I think it will be really good for me. The boundaries between work and home have been too blurry for me at points during the pandemic – I have school-age kids who were home for a year – and I think the clear delineation between work and home will be really nice.

    1. sofar*

      I’m with you! A bunch of us on the team have made it clear that we are going back at least a few days a week as soon as that becomes possible. And we’ve already been floating the fact that we will therefore have commutes and will need to account for traffic, and will need to adjust our hours of availability to match when we are in the office (like the old days) and work more traditional hours (ie, 9:00-6) instead of “whenever someone first sends us a Slack at 7:30 a.m. or throws an impromptu meeting on the calendar for 8 a.m. until the last Slack is sent at 7:45 p.m. or the final dumpster fire is put out.”

      Some of our leadership is getting hinky about it and emphasizing how nice the “flexibility” has been. I honestly just hope I can get to a place where I show up to work, work and then go home and NOT work. Wishful thinking, probably.

  9. KHB*

    While I haven’t had to deal with any zealots quite as annoying as your boss, one thing that’s helped me is to frame my working in the office as a “need,” rather than a “want” or a “preference.” To do my job effectively, I need to work in a quiet space where I can concentrate, and I need to work in a space that’s designed for work. Not only does it sound less like an opening bid in a negotiation this way, but it’s also less of a judgment on anyone else: This is what I need for myself, and it’s got nothing to do with what anyone else chooses to do.

    1. allathian*

      That’s a very good point, at least as long as your needs don’t impact anyone else. Like the letter a month or so back, where someone desperately wanted their coworkers in the office as well, so they could go bug their coworkers in person at their desks instead of waiting for a reply on IM or by email.

  10. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    This is a little bit like the “I hate Mondays/TGIF” chorus issue from a little while back.

    You can be bored at her about the automatic scripting, and be specific with her about actual work questions.

    “Yup, remote wasn’t working for me. Glad you’re enjoying it so we can keep our numbers down.”

    “So, was there a decision about the conference rooms? Or should I check with someone else?”

    1. jane's nemesis*

      Yes! Don’t react to her zealotry and she will no longer find you a great target of it. She might even be enjoying making you feel defensive.

  11. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I hope your boss tones it down as the newness of remote work wears off. I love being remote, but such… enthusiasm… would still wear on me and get old quick.

    I also hope your workplace delivers everything you’re going back for.

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

    I agree with Alison, Jane is trying to convince you remote work…her preference…is the One True Way. This is entirely about Jane not wanting to return to the office. If you can’t find it amusing you can probably just go gray wall and make it boring for her…”so you’ve said” or “interesting” and move the conversation along.

  13. Anon for this*

    It makes me idly wonder if there’s something wrong with the building that LW doesn’t know about that could explain why the boss really doesn’t want the LW in the building.

    But mostly that, there IS probably a time and a place where encouraging someone to not work in the office is justified. But, the LW’s boss clearly does not fall into one of these situations, and if they do, they should definitely be approaching the situation completely differently.

  14. The Starsong Princess*

    Frankly, you shouldn’t do anything about Jane until you try going back to the office. Maybe she’s absolutely right and it will be awful. Maybe it will be great. More likely, it will be so-so and you’ll have to decide if the benefits outweigh the negatives. But for right now, don’t try to dissuade Jane from her opinion with your opinion. Once you’ve been to the office, you can speak with her on your experience.

  15. Jean*

    WE GET IT, LADY, YOU LOVE REMOTE WORK. Lol. For real though, I’d love it if my boss was this pro-remote work, but yours sounds OTT and annoying.

  16. Bookworm*

    No advice, just very sorry you have to deal with that. I’m all about WFH but recognize not everyone like yourself feels the same. It’s obnoxious and it does sound like a bit much from your boss. I hope she takes a chill pill! Good luck.

  17. Elenna*

    Ugh, I’m going to be WFH as much as possible in the future and I would still find Jane super annoying if I heard her talking like this to someone else. Has she just never encountered people with different priorities than her before??

  18. aubrey*

    I’m so baffled by people not even considering that not everyone’s home is perfect for WFH. Haven’t they ever have roommates or live in a small place, even as students? I love WFH, but it’s BECAUSE I’m an introvert who has my own office with a good setup and I only share my house with my cats (who can be shut out of the office if they’re being obnoxious). I’m paying 3 times what I could if I rented somewhere smaller or had roommates, which is not something everyone can just pay for!

    I agree with Alison that she’s probably just blinded by her worry that she’ll be made to go back to the office if enough people do. But really people should have more empathy than this.

    1. Green Beans*

      In my experience, a lot of people just kind of…forget about the difficulty of life admin logistics once they’re no longer part of their day-to-day. Though I’m convinced that a few of my bosses just went from parents to spouses (wives) always taking care of them, and really don’t understand what it takes.

      1. BeenThere*

        I’m convinced this a huge part of the problem in the Bay Area. Add, college where all your meals are provided and company where you are driven to work and feed for free in between that parents to spouses transition and you’ll describe all the men who’ve had the rapid rise to management while the rest of us with a decade of experience who have adulting skills are completely overlooked.

  19. The OTHER Other*

    Working remotely and working in the office both have their challenges, especially in this crazy time. Part of being a good boss and good employer is recognizing that not all jobs or all people are perfectly suited for one or the other.

    Several years ago I worked for a company with 3 offices, one of them moved to a smaller location so they asked for volunteers to work remotely at least part-time. Another office closed altogether and the employees were told they had to go remote or get laid off. The first group (volunteers) was far more successful than the second. The pandemic forced many people to WFH whether they wanted to or not.

    This manager is dealing with this badly. Maybe she fears if her team goes back to the office, she will be forced to, or maybe she knows that some in upper management have the “butts in seats” mentality and she is trying to combat it. Either way, she’s handling her conversations with you really poorly.

    1. Delphine*

      It sounds like her end of the rope is working from the office. Should she be forced to work from home because Jane can’t let go of it?

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I think OP’s end of the rope is probably caring what Jane thinks, and dropping her end would be to just ignore all these comments. And I can see the virtue of that, but Jane’s her manager, so I can see how it might be really hard to just let her harping on this topic roll off your back.

      2. Aquawoman*

        No, I mean when Jane says things like “nobody is going back to the office,” to assume that she means “not many people are going back to the office” and not argue with her about whether NOBODY is going back to the office. “Nobody” is hyperbole, like “should she be forced to work from home” is hyperbole.

        1. Teapot Repair Technician*

          I agree the examples LW describes of Jane’s remarks don’t really seem that annoying, but maybe Jane is being a lot more relentless and insistent than I’m imaging.

          I do like Alison’s last bit of advice to reframe Jane from “annoying and discouraging” to “hilarious caricature.” I’ve worked with many hilarious characters who in a different light might have annoyed me.

          1. CTT*

            “When I asked if she knew whether conference room capacity had changed in a different meeting, she answered in a gleeful-sounding tone, “It shouldn’t matter, because nobody else will be using those conference rooms. Nobody’s going to the office. We’re remote now.””

            That’s where it crosses the line for me – she could just say “I don’t know since I won’t be back in the office, check with [X],” but not offering a useful answer is obnoxious.

        2. JB*

          These aren’t off-hand comments, though. ‘Nobody is going back into the office’ was provided as an explanation for why Jane didn’t see any reason to look into a question LW asked (regarding meeting room capacity).

          It is indeed hyperbole, but the fact that it’s not literally true means that Jane dismissed LW’s question without answering it. There ARE going to be other people and there might be, or might need to be, a capacity limit for those rooms.

  20. The Crowening*

    Eh, she sounds like one of those people who somehow takes it a little personally when talking to someone who has a different preference, feels like they need to defend their take, and gets overly pushy about it. Kinda like that person who doesn’t approve of (insert food here), and you mention that you just had that food, so the person spends the next five minutes telling you why that food sucks and it’s probably poisoning your gallbladder right this minute. It’s tiring but says more about them than you. She’s clearly biased and probably also hoping to keep as many people on her side as possible. Just let her comments roll right off.

  21. Amethystmoon*

    The company I work for is to the point where we need Sr. VP approval to go into the office now. Also, they updated the COVID restrictions stating employees must wear masks in cubicals. How exactly is anyone with glasses supposed to get anything done, much less accurately, because we would be rubbing our glasses every 20 seconds or so? Those glasses sprays for masks by the way, don’t work.

    As someone who lives alone in an apartment and experiencing isolation right now, even as an introvert, people do need some social interaction once in a while. Zoom doesn’t really cut it. Though if it wasn’t for Toastmasters, I’d probably be having cabin fever right now.

    Also, with an apartment during the day, there can be all kinds of noises. This week, there have been a lot of repair sounds. Once, a fire alarm went off in the middle of a meeting because someone in the building burned their cooking and opened the door to the hallway, triggering the entire building alarm system. That has happened late at night in the middle of winter too, but thankfully, not frequently.

    Managers should take into account the differences in living situations before passing judgment on others for wanting to come in. Not everyone has a nice fancy house in the burbs with their own garage and white picket fence.

    1. Susie Q*

      You can wear glasses and masks at the same time. You need a mask with a wire that you press firmly against your nose. I do it all the the time.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I bought all of my masks last year when they first became available. None have wires. I also don’t sew beyond crocheting.

        1. Mstr*

          What do you do now? Avoid wearing masks or go without your glasses? Regardless, it’s not an insurmountable problem. I think your workplace would be willing to provide you one with a wire (or someone else would) if it’s a hardship for you to otherwise acquire one.

          It isn’t unreasonable for a workplace to request employees wear a mask as part of dressing suitably for work, and simply wearing glasses isn’t a disability they need to accommodate.

        2. CraftyGirl*

          There are iron on mask nose wires that you buy. I’ve seen them at Vogue Fabrics on line and I’m sure other places sell them as well.

        3. Flower necklace*

          I found paper masks with a wire that press firmly against my nose. I put a cloth mask over it. No problems with fogging.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          my weird idea that worked pretty well: Indulge in a bag of good coffee with the flat plastic-covered wire closure. Peel that off, flatten it, and stick it to your mask. Reglue if/when it falls off. If you attach the wire on the inside consider adding a layer of felt against your face.

    2. EssEss EssEss*

      I wear glasses and wear cloth masks. You pull the mask up on your nose, and you slide the glasses slightly down the nose and over the top edge of the mask to seal off the gap. This stops the warm air from blowing up behind the glasses.

      1. Bucky Barnes*

        Seconded. I’ve been in office most of the time and have been wearing glasses and a mask.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        I have trued this and my glasses keep sliding off repeatedly.

        Contact lenses are also not an option, as my eyes are too sensitive for them.

    3. miro*

      I wear glasses and haven’t had any trouble with masks fogging my glasses (and my two family members and one housemate who also wear glasses haven’t had issues either. That’s not to diminish your experience, which sounds pretty darn frustrating. Rather, I think it’s worth noting that problems with masking with glasses are by no means universal or a given, and so if you do find yourself wanting to do more out of the house/in the office there may be room to experiment and find a setup (maybe a different style/fit of mask?) that will work for you!

    4. Teapot Repair Technician*

      I recently started using cone-shaped N95 masks. For my face shape, much more air goes through the material rather than around the sides so they’re less prone to fogging glasses. (And I guess more effective at blocking viruses.)

      1. Hybrid or Bust*

        My whole family wears glasses and my children have been at school in person since March and we are all wearing cloth masks. Mine don’t have a wire, but you do have to make sure you are getting a good fit over the nose. That could be a wire or tucking them under your glasses. Or try Etsy, a lot of people are selling masks in more sizes than you see in the store. We have also been using the Optix 55 Fog Gone from Amazon and I can 100% tell the difference when I spray them vs when I don’t.

    5. feral fairy*

      I wear glasses at all times when I am awake, and throughout the pandemic I have worked in customer service roles that required me to be at work in person. This meant I was wearing a mask for hours on end and before I got vaccinated, I was double masking. I use the wired surgical masks, and they prevent my glasses from fogging up for the most part. If you’re going to work in the office, I strongly recommend getting a box of disposable surgical masks which you can purchase on any number of online retailers.

    6. JB*

      Ehh? I wear glasses and was in-office for the entire pandemic, with mask. I had no issues. Only recall getting fogged glasses occassionally when outside, over the winter.

    7. allathian*

      I haven’t found one that works, and I use masks with wires when I need to mask up. A friend suggested using medical tape to stick the top of the mask to your nose and cheeks. He does this all the time and it works for him.

      I have a big head and I’m obese, so all masks that I’ve tried are just a little bit too small for me. This means that air will leak out at the top, no matter what I do with the wire.

      With a mask on, I can’t focus on anything except trying to breathe. I’m lucky in that I haven’t been faced with having to attempt to work with a mask on, but I expect that my productivity would tank if I did. Kudos to everyone who manages to work without complaint while masked up!

    8. Another British poster*

      I’ve personally found the glasses spray works extremely well.

      Why don’t you just buy a mask with wires? They’re cheap and very readily available. Sounds strange to put yourself through so much inconvenience just to spare a couple of dollars.

  22. CanadianEng*

    So I LOVE WFH and therefore am slightly (slightly!) sympathetic to Jane’s feelings because she certainly is trying to convince her team to stay home so that she can do so as well. This is kind of like when we were kids and there were 2 popsicles left and my brother’s turn to choose and I would try to convince him to take the orange one because it was SOOOO much better, so that I could have the yellow one. So I get it, but as adults it’s a bit ridiculous and Janes needs to knock it off. I think ignoring, ignoring, ignoring is the best course of action here…

  23. Where are my minions? I was promised minions!*

    We bought a house to accommodate five people, two dogs, and three cats, so when the kids moved out, I snagged a room for myself. I have a door! And a window! I love this, since at work we’re in cubicle heck and I’m located in a far corner away from any window. So I get that I’m privileged here. I like working at home a lot, but I also want to go back to the office. I miss my coworkers and it’s lovely to access needed information when you’re in office. Right now, we are in a transition mode, where we are required to come to the office two days a week, in a staggered schedule, to keep exposure to each other minimal. As far as I know, none of the bosses are super invested in either option.

  24. Oh No She Di'int*

    No advice for Letter Writer, however a note of caution for other managers: please keep in mind that your employees’ preferences can change over time. They may have started out preferring one arrangement and may come to prefer the other.

    When we first went all-remote, there was a resounding chorus of agreement that everybody loved WFH and nobody expressed any desire ever to come back to the office. This was confirmed in an anonymous survey, in which people could indicate whether they would ever want to come back or not, part time, etc. Everyone unanimously expressed desire to stay home.

    Fast-forward 1 year. We partially opened up and people had the option to come in if they wanted. No one did. However, I started to get inklings that a couple of people weren’t actually faring so well. Come to find out today that at least one person has been completely miserable at home for months now and has now come to “the end of her rope” with regard to her ability to stay at home. I know it sounds odd, but I believe that there was kind of a social pressure to be one of the cool kids who work from home, and nobody wanted to admit that they weren’t “down” with the WFH commitment. Also recall that the whole issue even took on slightly political overtones back then.

    I plan to discuss this with everyone. To let them know that it’s perfectly ok for them to change their minds on this subject, it doesn’t make them look flaky, and most importantly, if they don’t thrive at home, it is not a personal failing.

    1. Anonya*

      I think I’m one of these people! In theory, I’m the person who should love working from home. Introverted, comfortable house, have kids. In reality, I am really happy to be in the office 4 days a week. I’ve learned that I need much more separation between my work and home spaces to thrive. I also like having actual conversations with my teammates, imagine! When I WFH full-time, I’m in survival mode.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Good for you on addressing this directly. I’ve found my preferences changing over time, for reasons that are obvious once you know them: I enjoy working from home more when school is open in-person than when my kids were doing remote learning for the first year or so of the pandemic! This is not at all surprising, but it means that I couldn’t even really assess how I felt about WFH for many months, because I had two first-graders in the house with me the whole time. They had enough in-person school last spring that I have more of a sense of things now, but soon my wife will be going back to the office so I’ll be alone on my WFH days. I may get to October or November and realize I love that, or realize that it’s too much isolation for me and that I should spend more days in the office.

      Moving to a new apartment or house, changing routines among family members, changing roommates, changing job responsibilities, a construction project starting up next door… lots of things can make someone’s experience change over time. And people’s feelings can change even without any of those external factors!

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is me. The first six weeks of WFH were great! Over last summer I even expanded my athleisure wear. But as of the one year mark I really couldn’t handle it anymore.

      1. Jlynn*

        Yep – me too. At first I loved working from home, then hated it as I had a horrible set up, about the time I adjusted and got a new monitor and got better set up they made a bunch of us come back – my boss being one who prefers the office and me literally living across the street, made me be one that came back. My preference – a hybrid model – could I come to office in morning and be remote in the afternoon? or maybe remote a couple days a week? His answer is nope – but I know that it could work – after all – we managed to do court totally remotely for 3+ months before we had to come back, and even then things were remote hearings, we were just in the office on zoom instead of at home.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          Obviously I don’t know the details of your workplace, but from your description, your suggestion seems like a good one. I feel like if managers are truly interested in getting work done efficiently and well, they will at least entertain employees’ self-reports of what would be most conducive for them. Otherwise they will always be swimming upstream.

    4. Mockingjay*

      This is an excellent point. Life circumstances, including COVID, affects our choices in ways we never predict.

      I now permanently telework, due to family circumstances, when I’d much prefer to be in the office now that it’s opening up. It’s wonderful that my company is so flexible, but I miss my coworkers and that undercurrent of connection that runs through the building. Not that WFH can’t be effective but as others have pointed out, offices and facilities are specifically created to be conducive to work in ways that the spare bedroom or dining room table will never be.

    5. louvella*

      Yeah…I was really excited about working in the office in July at least a few times a week. I did it a lot for a bit! Now with the growing number of breakthrough cases, it’s still allowed but it doesn’t feel safe to me anymore.

    6. Green Beans*

      Our WFH staff has by far taken the hardest moral hit in a post-vaccine world. They like the flexibility, and many of them want to stay either fully remote or hybrid, but they are by far the worst-off moral-wise (and we just don’t have the bandwidth to do much about it, even though we know it’s an issue.)

    7. LQ*

      This is a really good point. I think an underrated one. WFH became something of a political stance and a social stance and if you aren’t a part of that crowd you’re and antimasking antivaxxer. I didn’t have too much of this until I saw some people recently who refused to believe I was (and have been) going into the office every day despite having a job that could be done from home.

      I have a dozen reasons for it but they saw it as a weird political thing, and then like a …I think i’m not good enough thing, and then they settled on it was ok for me because I had a small home and not great work life at home, which they just wanted to give me advice on.

      My office at work is 5 times the space of my “desk” at home. And the internet is at least 5 times better. Either of those should be enough reason. Or any of the others, but it was weird to get this face full of pressure about it.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Yes, weird that you’d have to justify what should really just be a purely practical decision.

    8. Just Saying*

      The pressure to conform to WFH was so great last year. I was having to constantly defend my desire to work in the office, often to management. My home is not suitable for WFH for the job security requirements but I had to suck it up for a few months. I had to keep pointing out the security breaches before they allowed me back. And I work in a one-person office so I didn’t have co-workers anyway. It was so crazy trying to be a voice of reason to upper management.

  25. RandomLawyer*

    I’m curious what the office culture around remote work is at OP’s office and if remote work was done reluctantly during the pandemic and those higher than Jane had to be convinced it could keep working. I feel like Jane thinks if people go back to the office en masse, the powers that be will eventually limit remote work options and is therefore trying to keep everyone at home to, I don’t know, generate a critical mass for permanent remote work post pandemic. That being said, I’m with OP. I am so OVER WFH and cannot wait to go back to my office next month (I hope!). It just doesn’t work for everyone.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I think that may be exactly what Jane thinks will happen, especially since it might look really odd for the manager to be the only person on her team fully remote when she has no medical reason (that we know of) to continue doing so.

  26. 100%thatlizzofan*

    I wonder if Jane is fearful that if enough of her team returns to the office, she will also be required to return to the office and she doesn’t want to do that. Therefore, she is dropping all of the comments as a way to remind people of all of the potential return to office considerations and to sway them. It might not even be something she realizes she is doing or maybe doesn’t realize she is doing it at the level she is.

    1. WellRed*

      I think Jane may also have FOMO. Even if she isn’t required to return to the office, she knows she’ll miss out on, if nothing else, water cooler gossip.

  27. Meep*

    Funny enough I have the opposite problem. We have a manager who hates other people working from home because she has a serious case of “projection”. She will call you claiming how it is “too distracting” and “she cannot work from home” from her home! because she is “already set up for the day”. Her entire mindset was if I was in the office she was technically in the office – even when she wasn’t. It was frustrating when our AC broke and was gushing water. I had to stay in the office for the entire three weeks as the only one there because “someone had to be there for our clients!” (Our clients are all out of state or country and would never just pop in.) In hindsight, I should’ve reported her to OSHA.

    The pandemic made her more flexible about others working from home because she was forced to let people work from home, but she would go around telling others how unproductive their coworkers were because they were working from home. She seems to have softened a little bit and says she doesn’t mind but she is also a pathological liar so who knows.

    tl;dr – I feel you. It is annoying. I have mastered the art of just smiling and nodding with one-word answers to get it moving along faster.

    1. RMATSON*

      “Let me just interrupt your work so I can go on and on about how unproductive I think other people are being who are working remotely….”

    2. Ori*

      Our boss is like that. Extremely paranoid, convinced working from home equals slacking off. Which makes no sense, because the majority of us do output / results based tasks.

  28. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I have a couple of these in my office. Not the boss thankfully, we’re working on optional hybrid options, but some pretty high up people insisting that WFH is going great for everyone and there’s zero reason to return.

    The lower level staff who make 1/3 their income and have roommates/unreliable wifi/etc are not on quite the same page..

  29. EssEss EssEss*

    I would be very blunt. “Jane, it really hurts my morale when you keep insulting my decisions to go back to work. I am making the decision in my own best interest and it really feels like you are not wanting to support me or trust that I know what works best for my personal situation. I’m glad you are happy with your arrangement, and I’d like to be able to be happy with mine.”

  30. Why do I stay here?*

    My boss is the opposite – he counted down the days until he could tell us to return to our desks. When it came time to send the email, he did it with: 3 working days’ notice; a schedule of how often you were allowed to work from home depending on how far from the office you lived; an exultant note describing that he “feels energized by being in an office with his co-workers” where “sharing ideas, impromptu meetings and brainstorming on a white board is easier with all the team in the room.”

    Since returning to the office, I’ve been miserable. There is NO REASON for me to be here. I live close enough that it’s easy for me to come and go for meetings, scheduled or impromptu. I am a team of 1 and I talk to approximately 0 people each day. There’s certainly no whiteboard brainstorming sessions.

    No one else wore masks at the office, bolstered by the knowledge that everyone had to present a vaccination card before returning, until the state re-mandated it. Overall (and including things not mentioned – like moving my desk for literally no reason by tossing my stuff in boxes and setting them on my new desk for me to salvage) it adds to me feeling overall disrespected and dispirited.

    And over what? My boss’s preferences, without consultation from the rest of the office. This WFH stuff is a serious issue that we were confronted with as a contingency but which is rapidly redefining work culture by virtue of it having been forced on everyone. The flat out refusal to see how it differs from office work, and that there are reasons for each, is so frustrating.

  31. Red red rose*

    Is it possible that Jane is actually offended or threatened that you are not emulating her? Maybe she is irritated that you don’t just follow her lead, or that you’re showing silent disapproval of her own decision. But she knows she doesn’t have the authority to stop you, so she just brings it up over and over… I admit that I suffer from a nagging suspicion that my reports don’t respect me as a youngish female manager, and I could sort of see myself reacting this way, but of course I might be completely projecting.
    Still, if this is a possibility, I think a heart-to-heart chat where you show that you respect her decision and totally see why she chose to work remotely, but explaining the circumstances that make this different for you personally (“I feel motivated to be around people”, “I might be unusual, but I am more productive when I separate home from work”) might work.

    1. Ori*

      Possibly? I had a boss who seemed to be mad that I didn’t follow her schedule – but I was carpooling and had home responsibilities, and couldn’t work until 7pm every night.

  32. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I wonder if Jane’s boss has said if X% of your team comes back into the office you need to come in too. So Jane is trying to talk her team into staying at home. I do think that if most of the team is in the office, that the boss should come into the office at least part of the time. I couldn’t imagine working in an office and my boss is remote.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I couldn’t imagine working in an office and my boss is remote.

      I’ve done it as the supervisee. It’s manageable. One big challenge is the boss figuring out how to measure the output from afar, but ultimately I think most of the same principles as remote-worker, onsite boss and everyone onsite still apply.

    2. Teapot Repair Technician*

      I’ve been in meetings where everyone was physically present except the boss joining by Zoom. As soon as the boss logs off, inevitably a new unofficial meeting commences with everyone relaxing and speaking more freely.

      I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I would guess a lot of managers would prefer that not to happen.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      My manager’s been in a different office to me since I started a my job. It’s fine if you have the right systems in place.

      1. allathian*

        My current manager started a few months ago. She’s new to the organization and I’ve never met her in person. She’s also in a district office rather than at HQ, like I am, so even when we can go back to the office, we’ll have in-person meetings maybe once a quarter or so, because she’ll have to travel to get to them.

    4. JB*

      I think it depends a lot on the job. I just started a new position; I’m in the office, my supervisor has been in a couple of times but warned me up-front he would be primarily remote.

      I was initially worried (honestly dreading) how training, etc. would work; but it’s been going fantastically from what I can tell (and I’m getting good feedback from him). We do training over video chat with screen sharing, he’s always available by email – which means I have his answers to my questions in writing, without worrying I may have written something down incorrectly. With us not being able to see each other, I feel less anxious about sitting there re-reading a portion of our policy over and over (an important part of my training, and our policy is NOT easy to read) and more mindful of updating him on how/what I’m doing in a meaningful way so he knows whether I’m on track.

      I think with a bad manager it could go very, very poorly, but my experience so far has been good.

  33. E*

    Recent events have made way for two new forms of self-righteousness: people who love working from home, and people who love wearing masks.

    I will happily wear a mask to protect people right now but my god I cannot wait until the day I never have to wear one again. But several people I know get so smug about them and say “I’m going to keep wearing a mask forever”.

    Like okay, good for you?

    And I’ve noticed people do the same thing about working from home. I like working remotely from time to time but am looking forward to going back to the office and the number of people who have said “oh I could NEVER go back to the office because I’m not a soulless drone” is ridiculous.

    I mean people are always going to be self-righteous about something but this is the worst of the worst right now.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I am neither of those people, and you’re right it’s exhausting. I think the core of it is we’ve all been struggling the last 18 months and people acting like the situation we’re in right now is somehow “better” is just a lot to mentally process.

      I’m glad if WFH has been a COVID silver lining for people and they’ve found a workstyle that works for them but please let people have the option without pushing your preferences on others – in either direction!

      1. E*

        Yes! I am so thrilled for people who want to work from home and now are able to–I think it’s one of the few upsides of the pandemic. I even happily supported extra perks and benefits for them that I probably wouldn’t get (i.e. a small bonus/allowance to purchase home office equipment). But I’m tired of hearing that it’s the BEST CHOICE FOR EVERYONE and NO ONE CAN GET ANY WORK DONE IN AN OFFICE.

    2. LS*

      100% this! And I’ve been back in the office for ages, so it feels very self-righteous to act like it’s impossible to work in the office. Flexibility is key, not absolutes (one way or the other).

    3. J.B.*

      Just to add that when I say I’ll wear masks on public transit forever it is because I really like less exposure to everything that goes around in winter. But self righteousness never helps.

      1. Ori*

        Yep. First maskless gathering I went to I was hit with a vicious cold. My immune system was not used to it.

  34. Anon today*

    This is my boss. I began reading this thinking, “Did I write this letter in my sleep?” (I’m now two-three days a week in the office and its wonderful, so much more productive than trying to work in my house.)

    The difference is that my boss, a crusader for WFH who as a result has at times actively made it harder for me to return to the office, does not do her job as well as if she were in the office. It’s a constant and annoying problem. It has not gone unnoticed by our superiors. But TBD if anyone ever does anything about it.

    Anyone give me advice about how you’ve dealt with these types — the WFH advocates who don’t actually work better from home? Especially when its your boss not your direct report?

    Also, I think what Alison said about concern that she’ll be forced back is good advice. I also think my boss has some insecurity about others getting more facetime with higher ups and I suspect that once she understands who of the higher-level people are in the office, she may change her mind.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That sounds like a “push back as a group” situation – maybe have the supervisor who has the best rapport actually raise the concern, but be prepared to back that supervisor up.

  35. My name goes here*

    I found through the pandemic that I love remote work. In fact, just quit my job, of over 10 years, to move to a remote first organization. But, this boss is….not helpful. I totally recognize that remote work is not for everyone. And when it became clear my employer was not going to make remote work an option moving forward, I knew it was time for me to go. I agree with AAM. It is so clear that she is so afraid of remote work going away at her organization that she is trying to make remote work normalized. She isn’t forced to stay there and it sounds like she really wants a remote first organization.

  36. Michelle*

    I’m so glad to read the comments here bc they really put to mind the writer’s concern. I hate seeing the comments on IG. People name-calling the person asking for advice. It’s really disheartening

  37. fogharty*

    I’ve been coming in since the beginning. I was always the only person in the office, sometimes the entire building. It was my choice to come in and it worked out well. Now all the WFH people are coming back in and I find it hard to get used to their presence again.

    So even if few people will be coming back in with you, OP, it won’t be the dire environment Jane is envisioning. I hope things go well with your return.

    1. La Triviata*

      I’m another who’s been coming in all along. It’s kind of nice – having the entire office to myself – but it’s good to have people around sometimes. I think our management has hit a good compromise – half the staff come in Monday and Wednesday, the other half Tuesday and Thursday and everyone works from home on Friday. Except me – I’m still in the office full time – and the three people who’ve moved out of state and are on permanent WFH. We have Zoom meetings every two weeks and I haven’t heard any complaints about people not having appropriately businesslike home set-ups, so I guess we’re pretty lucky. But it’s good to have someone on site – we’ve had leaks, broken windows, etc., plus I’ve worked with our accounts receivable person to get checks that came in processed and deposited. The long-term plan is, I think, to keep the half-week schedule with people spaced out, masks required when away from your own desk, no central lunch site, so I think it’s about as good as it can get.

  38. RB*

    Hey LW, can you please use the words “social isolation” when you talk with Jane about your situation. This is a very real thing that people are dealing with. Having a lunch delivered to your apartment or getting out to a restaurant or the grocery store a couple times a week doesn’t do much to alleviate it.

  39. JSPA*

    In all but a handful of regions in the USA, if I were a manager whose staff were mostly champing at the bit to head in to the office, I’d be anticipating having my entire department out sick, concurrently, at some point between now and mid October. Furthermore, I’d be anticipating a substantial risk that at least one of them might end up with

    a) guilt from infecting someone not vaccinated / not immunologically competent to respond to their vaccine

    b) health complications, due to not knowing their vaccine had not protected them effectively

    c) bridges burnt with clients or suppliers, due to spreading infection

    Delta is a whole new thing, as far as transmissibility (yes, even when masked, even when spaced, even when shielded–actually, especially when shielded–even with improved ventilation). And there will be variants “on beyond delta,” of course.

    Depending on local conditions and set-up, I’d also potentially question, more broadly, my employees’ ability to recognize facts on the ground, and deal with them adequately.

    Creativity is great. Optimism is lovely. But wishful thinking? That’s something else.

    Magical thinking and wishful thinking (or blinders due to over-commitment, or impatience-driven thinking) however, have morphed–in my mind–from quirky character traits to be accepted and enjoyed (in a “takes all kinds” sort of way), into a pile of problematic risk indicators.

    “Does my carefully-considered, calibrated and calculated approach to covid risk in the workplace cause you any concerns about my thoughtfulness and reliability?” might be the question that gets at the crux of the matter.

    If I knew my employees were fully aware and actively participating in mitigating in-person risk, I’d feel quite differently than if they were going in fatalistically, or as denialists looking to push boundaries.

    To be clear, I would not discriminate on the basis of ideology, in and of itself. But if I thought someone’s attitude would render them a walking risk factor for themselves and others, I’d be much more likely to keep right on urging them to isolate.

    1. LAL*

      I’d agree, but it sounds like Jane has never cited safety/Delta concerns, just how muc( more enjoyable working from home is.

      1. L'etrangere*

        +1.
        And LAL, maybe Jane has and the OP hasn’t noticed, or Jane has not because she knows the OP doesn’t consider that a factor. I think it’s pretty telling that the entire topic isn’t even mentioned in the initial letter..

    2. Chopsington*

      This feels very righteousness and holier then though. You’re explicitly saying anyone who doesn’t actually like wfh and would rather go back in must be automatically be lumped it with denialistic wishful thinking risk factors who shouldn’t even be employed. Despite how many people in this thread have detailed how for their situations, WFH is a huge negative.

  40. Betteauroan*

    OP’s boss has an agenda and that is to work remote forever. Other people wanting to work in the office might be a threat to that and she is afraid if she has too many employees working in the office, her boss is going to want her to be there, too, so she will be part of the team and be there to supervise. That’s exactly what is.
    If I were you, OP, just let it go in one ear and out the other. You can try telling her you don’t have a good workspace at home. See what she says to that, but really there’s nothing you can do about her attitude.

  41. HamsterBob*

    I think the root of this is insecurity about the future of remote work, and we’re going to be seeing more of this going forward. For large portions of the last year, everyone who could be remote has been working remote by necessity. Even when remote work wasn’t mandated, it was allowed and accommodated. But in the next year, when we actually get to post-pandemic (whenever that is – we’re not there yet), there’s going to be some new equilibrium, and that’s going to be disruptive to a lot of people, again. Lots of people are going to be unhappy about it one way or the other, and it’s really going to be a test of people’s professionalism, which I think Jane is failing.

    In some workplaces, the new normal will be same as the old normal – everyone in-office 100% of the time. There’s plenty of discussion already about who this would be disruptive too.

    In some workplaces, the new normal might be “everyone is remote” – but I will note that we have NOT adapted to this yet, even in workplaces that have been entirely remote for the pandemic. “This is a temporary arrangement for the next few months, being extended for a few months at a time for the last year” is not going to feel the same as “this is the new normal.” For it to be the new normal, it needs to be sustainable – so people need to set up quiet workspaces where they won’t be disturbed, iron out the various wrinkles that we’ve been putting up with “for now”. This would also be quite disruptive to a lot of people too.

    And in some places, the new normal might be a hybrid. This is going to take work to set up – and I think most places haven’t even tried this yet. Figuring out how to do meetings and communications channels well with a mix of remote and on-site people is probably more challenging than everyone doing one or the other. Saying “you could be remote or in-person” is not enough.

    But the hybrid model won’t just happen by default. It’ll take institutional buy-in, new processes, time. And I think we’re going to see a lot of people – like Jane here – be worried that their preferred or needed work mode is not going to be supported at their workplace, and they’re going to be either forced out of their jobs or forced in/out of the office.

    Jane is handling that super unprofessionally – as a manager, she shouldn’t be venting to her subordinates. She should know better. But I’d guess that the root of this is that insecurity and fear.

    It really needs to be addressed from a higher level. She probably needs to be told – or to decide – what the long-term plan is. Is their workplace going to support mixed remote/inperson? If so, they need to figure out how they’re going to make this work. Is the workplace going to be all-inperson when it’s safe to do that? If so, Jane needs to figure out whether she’s going to stay. Sticking around but being relentlessly negative (or even sabotaging the in-person work of her team) is unprofessional and unhelpful.

    (Full disclosure – I’m in a similar boat. I’m pretty sure that, over the last year and a half, I’ve been as productive and collaborative while fully remote. I would like to move closer to family. But my workplace has announced that they intend to require everyone to come back to the office. I’ve already accepted a new job offer, at a pretty substantial pay cut, that I trust will remain fully remote. But man, I can’t help but feel a bit bitter at having to do that when I’ve not heard a single bad thing about either mine or my team’s productivity over the last year and a half, and haven’t heard any justification for why I couldn’t keep doing this remotely, besides “higherups said so” or “but isn’t it more fun to see people”. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been doing any venting like that to my team, though.)

    1. L'etrangere*

      So true all this, HamsterBob. And while it’s absolutely true that many bosses have been utterly callous about how their home situation might differ from that of their underpaid employees, there hasn’t been a glimmer of understanding about Jane’s potential situation here. Maybe Jane knows she’s going to continue to be stuck managing remote school even as perky OP so looks forward to going back to the office. Maybe Jane has some immune-related condition that pretty much guarantees that if remote work gets forbidden she’ll die on a ventilator while perky OP socializes by the coffee machine. Maybe she’ll merely kill her bedridden mother instead, or her beloved diabetic husband, or her disabled little brother. Managers are people too, with equal privacy rights, and y’all can have no idea why this particular one is so anxious at the thought of being forced back to the office

  42. nnn*

    I absolutely agree with everything Jane has said, but I also think that isn’t the right stance for a boss to take – or, for that matter, for someone who wants to work from home to take.

    A boss – and someone who wants to work from home – should be vociferously thanking OP for going into the office so others (like Jane!) don’t have to!

    Things will be so much better for everyone if we see our preferences as complementary rather than trying to convert others!

  43. MeowMixers*

    She sounds strangely territorial about working from home. Like, almost as if you and others walk into the office that her option may disappear. Usually, when people act like this it’s because there is something they aren’t communicating. I would avoid the subject with her.

    1. allathian*

      Well, if her whole team decides that they want to work from the office, Jane’s supervisors may decide that she’d better return at least some of the time as well, and she wants to avoid that for whatever reason. She’s just going about it in the wrong way, if that’s the case.

  44. Colorado*

    We’re pretty split at my company and my boss works remote because he lives clear across the country. But we’ve resolved to let the love to work from homers work from home and the want to come to work-ers, come to work. I would have to say “well Jane, between the 4 dogs fighting at my feet in my spare bedroom office all day and the non-stop crowing of my 4 roosters, along with living in a house with no air conditioning while it’s been over 90 since June, yeah, I’m going back to the office dammit.”

  45. Ori*

    Interesting comments on the Cut, including the person who just suggested tuning it out and the guy who suggested that Jane might be trying to communicate a business decision.

    Slightly weirded out by the suggestion to try to get Jane fired though. For what?

  46. Jaid*

    My coworker refuses to WFH because she is a CSR and says she won’t have upset customers cussing at her in her own home.

    Me, I need the company during the day. Plus my work is mostly on paper and is considered “classified”, time sensitive, and incorporates some other things, so it can’t be just scanned and worked at home. My other co-workers are dealing with lists of numbers, which is easy to e-mail. But we have twenty+ boxes of work dating from months ago and only two of us in the office full time to deal with it. Plus current work coming in. The boss was asking for people to come in extra days to deal with those boxes, lol.

    Eh, job security.

  47. agnes*

    I wonder if your boss is concerned that she will be expected to return to the office if her staff chooses to do so? I find these kinds of “hints” are usually because doing something different will inconvenience the person doing the “hinting.”

  48. Not What I Expected*

    Wow. I want better remote flexibility to continue at my work, I read the title from my frame of reference where lots of people are forcing everyone to go back, and I honestly expected to agree with the boss on this one.

    I was wrong. I’m super for as many people as possible staying remote until we have a genuine lid on this (low cases, not rising, robust testing and contact tracing, the whole 9 yards), less about most people’s individual safety at this point because vaccines and more because of communal precautions, but not like this.

    There’s proactively trying to help people who are only returning for human contact (assuming other stuff isn’t a factor in remote work) to dial it back a bit, but this is so far beyond that. Nobody should be doing this much to compel stay-at-home without a valid citation for the exact rationale why. Like if you’re in a place with 30% vaccination rate and cases are rising tenfold from a month ago, then yeah, maybe push almost this hard for people to really consider taking the workplace up on remote arrangements. But in a vacuum? No, you don’t do this without a clear justification.

    That “hilarious caricature” advice is awesome for even thinking about this one, as I’m one of the more pro-stay-remote people I know and this boss is still managing to take it way further than I would’ve ever considered going with this stance. If anything, fighting this hard from a position of power imbalance feels like it hurts the case to keep distance more than it helps. Like, is this boss secretly super pro-return-to-work and doing a bit to try to make everyone else reach that conclusion but feel like it was their own original thoughts or something?

  49. Elle*

    I am very against people being forced to work in office when work from home has been working out just fine for them. I have not had ideal circumstances (nor utterly horrible for WFH ones) but very much prefer WFH still – no more wasting hours and stress/energy in traffic, more able to manage chronic illness symptoms, etc. I’ll share information about the benefits of remote work and that I don’t think companies should be forcing people back, but I also think that people who prefer working from an office, whether due to access, resources, mental state, separation, preference, or any other reason, should be able to, assuming the company has not gone to a no-office model. I expect some companies going to this model will lose some workers who don’t prefer it, but that is to be expected. I am wondering from the letter if the boss has been pushing within the company for the team to stay remote or has a requirement to go in if a certain number on the team do, though, because otherwise discouraging people from going in long-term when it is an option makes no sense to me. (Short-term, I would discourage it from a health and safety perspective in some situations. Some of those situations are not things people want to discuss, so I wonder if that is where Jane is coming from instead.)

    Sounds to me like Jane needs to rethink her approach, regardless of the reason(s). Hopefully things sort out well for the writer.

  50. MCMonkeyBean*

    I do think there is some space between being generally too pro-remote-work, and being currently very opposed to anyone being in-office because of covid.

    Jane does though sound like she falls more into the former category and is just kind of latching onto covid as an excuse. It’s pretty silly on its face to say “You can go in if you want, but there are going to be a ton of distancing rules and you’ll probably be the only one there” because those things inherently cancel each other out! If OP really was the only one in the office then they wouldn’t have to worry about distancing rules!

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