I’m frustrated that my employees don’t want to return to the office

A reader writes:

I am a single millennial living in a Manhattan apartment I share with a roommate. I don’t have any children or pets. I work at a mid-size company where most of the employees are around my age and the culture resembles a start-up. We are a very social workplace and I truly enjoy my job and my coworkers. I have an active social life outside of work as well, but I definitely get a lot of fulfillment from my career.

After a few months of lockdown with my parents in the suburbs, I moved back to NYC and have been back at the office very consistently for almost a year, working my way up to what I believe is the optimal schedule of three days in, two days at home. Our CEO, however, has been preaching “do whatever you want” and … well … I am really struggling to understand people’s attitudes towards coming back to the office. A small group of us have picked our days and come in very regularly, but everyone else tends to just come in when they feel like it, and I am starting to get incredibly frustrated. With vaccines available and precautions in place (my office requires return-to-office training and proof of vaccination in order to return, and we also contact trace), I personally feel that people are running out of excuses not to come back. I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine … so if you didn’t move outside of commuting distance and you were previously expected to come to the office five days a week, why are you acting like coming in for even one day is “too much”?

To be honest, my biggest frustration has been with my boss. I have two direct reports of my own but am not senior enough to mandate anything of them without her backing, which I don’t have. She had her first child during the pandemic and much of the childcare responsibilities fall on her, so I think that is a big reason why she hasn’t come in as much. My boss and I are very close and agree on almost everything except for this. Selfishly, I want her to come to the office so that I can spend some time with her, but I am also frustrated that she isn’t willing to give any direction to our larger team, which doesn’t allow me to set any expectations of my own reports (ideally, I would want everyone in the office three days a week). So all I can do is keep going to the office myself and hope that maybe some of my team will show up on occasion, which defeats half the purpose of being there in the first place.

While the days of being in the office full-time are over, I still think the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture. Do others not feel the same? If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers? With lack of guidance from leadership and no authority to change the situation, what can I do to make sense of all this and stay happy at work?

Whoa. Please do not make your reports come back to the office right now if their jobs don’t truly require them to be there, and don’t judge them if they’re not eager to return.

It sounds like you personally have a situation where returning to the office makes sense. But your situation is not the same as everyone’s, and other people have excellent reasons for not wanting to return.

For example, many people with kids still don’t have reliable child-care setups. There’s a shortage of available spots in day care, and people with school-aged children can have their kids sent home to quarantine with no notice whenever they have a potential COVID exposure. Moreover, people with kids who are too young to be vaccinated (which for now remains any under age 12) need to worry about bringing COVID home to their families.

And it’s not just parents. Plenty of people don’t yet feel safe returning to the office — the Delta variant is still very much a thing, and your colleagues may be immunocompromised or otherwise high risk in ways you don’t know about, or may have loved ones who are. The pandemic is not over.

These aren’t “excuses” not to come back, and they’re definitely not signs that people don’t value their careers. They’re legitimate, well-founded reasons not to return yet.

It sounds like you’re assuming everyone should share your risk tolerance, but that’s neither realistic nor fair. You wrote, “I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine” — which says you got lucky, not that it was actually safe or that everyone else should have done the same or that they’re wrong to continue to be cautious now. (Frankly, it also says you might be looking at this through a wonky lens. There’s a reason “I did a risky thing and it was fine so what’s everyone else worried about?” is not public-health guidance.)

Beyond safety reasons, many people have found they simply prefer working from home, whether that’s because of the lack of commute or other quality-of-life boosts or because they can focus better and are more productive when they don’t have a dozen people taking calls nearby.

And to be clear, it’s not that being in the office doesn’t have value. It does. It can be simpler to collaborate when everyone is in the same place, more gets discussed when you don’t need to pre-schedule a Zoom call, it’s often easier to build relationships in person, and sometimes the work itself just isn’t done as effectively from home.

But I noticed that you didn’t cite any work-related reasons for your colleagues needing to be on site more often. It sounds like personal preference, and if that’s the case, you’re going to be a lot less frustrated — and a better manager to the people on your team — if you realize that your perspective on this isn’t The One Right Way of Being.

As for what to do … it sounds like your CEO has told people that they can do what they want, and your manager hasn’t okayed you contradicting that. So for now, that’s your workplace’s policy. If there are specific work-related reasons you need someone to come in, talk with them about that work need. But if your desire to have them there is more amorphous than that — if it’s rooted in a general sense that people should be there because of team-building and culture — well, we’re in a pandemic and we’re prioritizing those things below safety right now.

Beyond that, as a manager you’ve got a professional obligation to broaden your perspective and see that your staff may have circumstances and opinions that are different from yours (possibly in ways you’ll never know about). Your default stance can’t be “it works for me so it should work for everyone.” That doesn’t work for core managerial responsibilities like how you delegate or how you provide feedback, and it definitely doesn’t work for something like navigating a pandemic.

Read an update to this letter here.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 818 comments… read them below }

  1. J.B.*

    I think the best point is – you didn’t cite any work related reasons for people to return. It seems to be about your feelings and current isolation. And I get that is a big deal, but it’s not your employees problem to solve either! I’m dealing with many other issues and only come to the office when I have a specific work reason to do so. If my employer said back in the office 5 days a week I would no longer work there.

    1. Liz*

      I agree, it doesn’t seem to be work related, NOR is it her reports and co-workers issue to solve. People are doing what is best for THEM, not what someone else perceives their best to be. My company started having us come back gradually over the summer, with the intent to go back to “normal” whatever that may have been, after Labor Day.

      But it was put on hold, due to Delta, etc., and my bosses are fine with me coming in one day a week. My group is small, we work independently, and communicate via e-mail, and the occasional phone call. no meetings, no zoom calls, nothing like that. I go in my one day, and I know some people are there daily, some one or two days a week, and some have yet to come in at all! Yet we are still thriving as a company, despite not all being on the same page, or schedules.

      1. ThatGirl*

        My office is similar – it’s been open since the spring for people who want to come in, with masks required when you’re not at your desk, etc. And the plan was more of a standardized hybrid schedule in September, but delta definitely pushed that back to … not sure?

        I come in 3 days a week most weeks, but that’s because I live close and I like the change of scenery. I have one teammate who only comes in when it’s necessary for meetings. We’re all still getting the work done and doing well.

    2. NJAnonymous*

      I think you’re spot on re: isolation playing perhaps a larger part of this than OP realizes. Especially for younger Millennials who are single and living either solo or with a roommate or two in close quarters in NYC, who then had to decamp to living with parents (which is trying or any adult, obviously)… I definitely get the frustration. Hopefully they take Alison’s advice to heart to broaden their perspective on how other people perceive risk/prefer to work.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’m a “middle-aged” millennial with no kids or significant other. Living with a roommate in a not-so-ideal space for working from home was a major factor in me going back to the office full-time pretty early. BUT, I knew the risks and how well we could socially distance in my company and felt ok with those risks. I was jealous of others who were able to WFH for much longer, but definitely wouldn’t begrudge anyone to make the same choice that I did. I think reading AAM comments definitely helped my perspective on the whole situation.

      2. MM*

        Yeah, my main thought for OP is, “so put more of your energy into that social life outside of work you say you have.” It really feels like she wants companionship and camaraderie.

        1. A*

          Exactly. I was already getting that vibe, but the comment about wanted Boss to come in so OP can spend time with them really drove it home. Does OP need more guidance from their management team than they are getting? Ask for it! Boss shouldn’t have to go into the office (unless necessary to support the business function) just because one of their reports wants to hang out / catch up / socialize.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I’m back in the office twice a week and due to safety reasons, I’m in a mask all day, alone in an office all day, still on Zoom with coworkers. I have brief chats in the hallway with a few people and that’s it.

      Covid “back in the office” is not probably going to give you the social buzz that you’re looking for.

      1. Buttercup*

        I took a temp-to-perm job that I kind of hate after over a year of unemployment, and the company I’m at doesn’t allow temps to work from home for reasons that are beyond me. The only “conversations” I have with anyone are “good morning”, “good night”, “here’s how you do this”, and “please do this for me”. Even then, the latter two are usually over email. The full-time employees are allowed to work from home basically whenever they want, even if they’re supposed to be in the office three days a week.

      2. Mary Anne Spier*

        This. I’m in the office more often than I’d like to be and almost everyone I talk to is through Microsoft Teams. It feels more isolating than being home imo.

        1. Old, but techno savvy*

          I had this same situation when I was still traveling! I was on a client site where I saw no one, and took meetings via conference call because everyone else was remote. Such a huge waste of money and energy. I live 25 min door to door from my office (when it was open), but have gone fully remote. Makes no sense to be sitting in a small cube trying to be quiet on calls all day when I can be loud and proud from my large home office!


    4. Lea*

      She’s giving off big extrovert energy here!

      Also I’ve been wfh for most of the last two years and we do a ton of video meetings so I probably see more people than I did before. Don’t blame anybody not wanting to commute in ny

      1. Francesca*

        I’m a HUGE extrovert and I love working from home – and I live alone with my cats. I won’t be going back to the office unless I have work that is easier done there than home. This is not an introvert vs extrovert thing.

        1. Kowalski!*

          Big ol extrovert here too and there is nothing (NOTHING) my employer can offer me to entice me back in the office. I miss the social aspect of work, but I don’t miss it so much that I’m willing to give up a lack of commute, getting my child to school in the morning without anyone verging on spontaneous combustion, fighting (and paying) for a parking spot downtown, or finally having work-life balance. I’m fortunate that my employer is letting us decide what works for us and so far has been supportive of it.

          1. RetailEscapee*

            Agreed on all fronts!! I’m sure social but not to the tune of giving up my work life balance.

        2. Rainy*

          Yup. I’m an extrovert as well, but I love wfh. My work with clients is more than enough work-related human contact for me! I don’t need to pester my coworkers to meet my social needs.

        3. F.M.*

          Introvert here who’s been desperately grateful to finally be able to work in the office regularly again, and that there are occasionally other coworkers here too. I wish there could be more, and more often, because there’s a lot of work-related discussion and networking that is genuinely faster, more effective, and easier with in-person communication… But I would never pressure the other folks to come in. They have good reasons to be at home, and I’ve already gotten so much more productive just by finally being back, heck, I can deal with the small additional disadvantages of them not being here.

          So, yeah, it’s not an introvert/extrovert thing. (Not even in the pop version of it where it means ‘likes people’ and ‘doesn’t like as many people’, or ‘socially comfortable’ and ‘socially awkward’, or ‘outgoing’ and ‘shy’.)

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Yup, same. I’m an introvert who hates working from home, just because of a visceral feeling that my home is my space and if work invades my space, work-life balance is gone.

      2. Nancy*

        It is not an extrovert vs introvert issue, stop making it one. I am a big introvert who hated working from home.

        It’s also not a generational thing, so not sure why OP mentioned it.

        1. Rainy*

          I think OP realizes deep down that they are being unreasonable and holding people to personal standards that don’t have a business purpose, and so is throwing the generational stuff in to try and add more validation to something that is essentially not necessary.

        2. JSPA*

          Because plenty of risk factors correlate with age? Ignoring that responsible people integrate in their covid calculus the risks of being an asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic carrier, thereby infecting others who are high risk.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I think the generational aspect is that younger people are less likely to have comfortable homes with plenty of space to fit an office in.

          1. A*

            Sure, except a decent portion of Millenials are now middle age. I’m a middle of the road Millenial, and I feel like it’s often used interchangeably with ‘young adults these days’ despite that not really being the case anymore. I interpreted the generational call out as an attempt to further justify why OP’s stance is the ‘right’ one, versus this truly being a generational thing.

            1. L*

              The mean for Millennials is the 30s (with a few just under and a few just over) so I don’t know about “middle aged” but yeah, a lot of people use it as “young adults these days” when… no, most of us are in our 30s.

    5. Canadian Valkyrie*

      I would absolutely leave my job if I was forced to be there 5 days a week. It’s completely unnecessary for my job. When I have to get a new job next year (contract relating to my education at the moment), it will 100% be a part of the negotiation that I work from home at least 50% of the time. I have an in-demand career and many employment options (including that working for myself is a feasible option!) so there’s absolutely no need for me to be in person, and with my skill set there’s absolutely no reason to deny me that flexibility; if you don’t want my skill set badly enough to compromise on 50% work from home, then good bye!

      1. Canadian Valkyrie*

        Frankly, if I didn’t have a client-facing career that would require me to periodically see clients in person (though many want to be seen virtually on a permanent basis!) I would 100% expect my employer to let me be fully remote or let it be at my discretion when I decide to come on.

      2. Canadian Valkyrie*

        Also, if I didn’t have a client-facing career that would require me to periodically see clients in person (though many want to be seen virtually on a permanent basis!) I would 100% expect my employer to let me be fully remote or let it be at my discretion when I decide to come on.

    6. Beth*

      Yep!!! OP, it’s fine for you to want to be in office–I’m glad it’s an option for you and for your coworkers who want to be in that space. Being in office works better for me too. I live in a little tiny studio, and mixing work, play, and sleep all in this same room really wasn’t viable for the long-term.

      But you really can’t apply your preferences to everyone else like this. This reads to me like your current thinking is “WFH is okay if you have a good reason for it, but obviously being in office is best. Why won’t people understand that and act accordingly?” And the fact of the matter is, you’re wrong there. Being in office isn’t best. It’s just two equally valid approaches to work. People should do what works best for them–and that could hinge on commute or childcare, but it could also hinge on “I realized I’m happier when I work in my PJs” or “I’m more productive when no one is interrupting me by knocking on my office door”. Your CEO has the right attitude here; you’re being rigid and, frankly, a bit selfish, given that it sounds like a big piece of this is you missing social time at work.

      If you want to require people to be in office, there needs to be concrete work reasons that they need to be there. Social time is not a work need; that’s a personal need, and you should address it by seeking out more time with friends or picking up some more social hobbies. Team-building doesn’t require in-person time; plenty of fully remote teams manage it. You need to get over this and move on.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Team-building doesn’t require in-person time; plenty of fully remote teams manage it.

        Yup. My fully remote team is extending our half hour Friday catch up call to an hour so we can have a virtual Halloween party for team building sake. We’re all jazzed about it and will play games and listen to music and NOT discuss work.

    7. Anonys*

      I get that some of OPs points are brought across badly and I don’t appreciate the accusatory tone towards colleagues who haven’t come back the office but i fully understand her frustration.

      I personally have a less than ideal wfh set up – flatmates, noise, tiny room with tiny desk. I’m trying to go into the office more but some days I have been the only person on my open office floor which would normally fit around 40 people. On those days the atmosphere always feels uncomfortable and even creepy to me. It’s marginally better than wfh (mainly in terms of distractions) but doesn’t really have any of the usual benefits of working in an office and collaborating.

      All of my colleagues are vaccinated and you need to be either vaccinated or tested to come into the office. Everyone is comfortable coming into the office when I ask to meet up there occassionally and we’e even had the very occasional team dinner. But I think it’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem in general – the office doesn’t really feel like the office (anymore/yet?) without any colleagues, so people don’t come in regularly and therefore it remains a ghost town.

      I definetely feel frustrated because I know that things will probably never go back to “the old normal” and as a relatively recent grad I only worked a few weeks befor Covid hit and feel like I might never get to experience a traditional, lively work life despite being a big company. Many people understandably love working from home, especially when they cut down on commuting times and even I am often tempted to stay home because its just easier to roll out of bed and get straight to work. But while I appreciate some flexibility, if I ever change jobs, I will definetely ask about how many team members are usually in the office and would try to look for a job where the office isn’t a ghost town.

      So yeah, I think OP’s tone isnt great but honestly sometimes I feel resentful towards everyone staying home to and just want to shout “Please come in already”

      1. Collate*

        But isn’t that the whole point? That coming into the office or staying home is about personal preference (in a company that allows both) and it’s about changing your personal perspective from resentment to understanding that your coworkers are choosing what works best for them, just like you and OP have? Coworkers are not at fault for not providing others with socializing.

        1. Anonys*

          Yes, but I can still understand frustration and resentment because I feel that way sometimes as well. If other people are in the office, then my preference is definitely office. But if noone is there, I might as well work at home (if flatmates are not also at home). Since part of the appeal of an office depends on other people physically being there, if everyone else’s personal preference is wfh, then the appeal is gone for those who would normally prefer the office. I know people don’t owe it to me but I want to work in an office with people, not by myself.

          1. Collate*

            I understand wanting to be in the office with people. But again, the point is to recognize that’s an unreasonable expectation you’re putting on your coworkers and they’re not wrong for not wanting to go into the office.

            1. Fran Fine*

              Yup. Being frustrated with people for making the best decision for their particular circumstance, whatever that may be, when they’re given the option to choose is not doing anon any favors. Anon and OP need to learn to work through those feelings and let them go because no one is doing anything wrong here.

          2. somanyquestions*

            I think you are over-estimating how much most other people want to be in, even if everyone else was in office. I don’t care how many other people show up, I’m not going back in.

            This is really not as much of a chicken-and-egg thing as you think.

        2. kicking-k*

          It’s not always about socialising. I am non-remote in a near-empty office, started my role just over a year ago, and I have found it harder to learn the “background” info that wouldn’t necessarily go in formal onboarding I’ve had several occasions lately when my job has been made more difficult because I can’t just stick my head round a door and ask someone a quick question about something that is physically in the building (so more difficult for them to show me via email or Zoom). Trivial stuff like “where can I find some envelopes?” or “have you got a hole punch I can borrow?”

          Thing is, that’s MY job being made more difficult. Not theirs, and it’s not worth them coming in for that, even if it does waste a bit of my time. I just have to work with it.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        So…hm…how do I put this. In my experience, part of maturing emotionally is recognizing that you don’t control your emotions. What you do control is what you do with them and how you unpack those emotions, including investigating when your emotions are reasonable.

        Being resentful because other people are making choices that are best for them is generally not reasonable. It’s great to *want* to work in an office with colleagues and I encourage you to look for that in your next job. What OP, you, and others with similar mindsets seem to be thinking is that you *deserve* your coworkers’ presence. And…well, you don’t.

        It would be different if ya’ll were feeling, “Aw, it’d be nice if more of us were here”, but that’s a far cry from resenting or being frustrated at people for not being in the office.

        I think that if you focus on learning what your coworkers do and do not owe you, you’ll be healthier and happier at work in the long run.

        1. A Wall*

          I like this summary. There is a certain subgroup of folks who wish things would go back to pre-pandemic norms that are really focused on how other more cautious people are inflicting the pandemic on them. They’re really trying to go “back to normal” by force, and anyone who isn’t willing to do that is making excuses and being unreasonable. See also: All the articles from last spring about how people wearing masks post-vax are being big stupid babies because the pandemic is totally over now.

          It comes from an understandable place that I think we’re all sympathetic to (wouldn’t we all prefer the pandemic to not be happening?) but it just doesn’t work that way. I think the subtext is really “I have accepted the risk of these choices, which means it’s the correct level of risk and everyone else should be joining me and be happy about it.” It’s simply not something you can demand of other people. You can feel it all you want, but you have to understand and accept how the boundaries are not going to be in the same place for everyone else.

        2. Ailsa McNonagon*

          100% agree with this. It’s a bit much to ask colleagues to compromise the health of themselves and their families just because *you’re* lonely.

        3. Allimarie*

          Wow, really well said. I was trying to think what bothered me about this post, and you nailed it. If it was a work-related problem, that’s another issue. But it seems like the OP is feeling a lack of control due to the pandemic and is trying to use the workplace as an outlet to maintain some form of control.

    8. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      The LW spends a lot of time expressing their own feelings, e.g. frustration. They don’t even make an attempt at giving a business justification for forcing people back to the office, never mind why it would be better for the employees themselves. And on the flip side, the only stab at understanding why employees might be reluctant is acknowledging that their boss has an infant to care for.

    9. tangerineRose*

      The LW said “what I believe is the optimal schedule of three days in, two days at home.” Well, that’s the LW’s preferred optimal, not necessarily anyone else’s.

      The LW said “I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine” That’s anecdotal data. It doesn’t mean that everyone had the same experience. Even with all the precautions, I don’t think we can call working in the office to be 100% safe. Maybe the LW has co-workers who have risks or live with high-risk people. Maybe the LW has co-workers who have found they can get everything done at home perfectly well and don’t find a need to go into the office.

      The LW said “If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?” Seriously?! The best way to figure out if someone values their careers – do they do the work and get along with people?

      Why is the LW choosing this as a hill to die on? I’m guessing it’s mostly that LW wants more company. To be happy at work, maybe the LW can remember that different people are different, and not everyone has the same ideas/comfort level the LW has. Maybe the LW needs to spend more time socializing after work to feel better in general.

      1. Fran Fine*

        The best way to figure out if someone values their careers – do they do the work well and get along with people?

        Agreed. The idea that people who work from home don’t care about their work and careers is insane. I was fully remote before the pandemic hit, and my work product was always exceptional. In the nearly two and a half years I’ve been with my current employer, I’ve been promoted (got promoted during the pandemic, even!), given RSUs from my company as a gift for high performance, and have been nominated to attend countless events for leaders in the making. All of this while, sometimes, working in my pajamas.

        1. Koalafied*

          Tbh I can count the added productive time in my day owing to the shorter distance to the bathroom alone, before even factoring anything else in! With my ADHD, transitions/stopping and starting work are kryptonite to my productivity. The bathroom being 15 feet from my desk at home vs having to walk literally half a city block each way from my office at one end of the building to the restrooms in the center of the building means I can be back at my desk so quickly my brain never disengaged from the task I was working on and it’s like I didn’t get up at all. 3-4 bathroom breaks a day cost me about 15-20 minutes lost walking to and from the bathroom and 15-20 minutes of task-switching inefficiency.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Same! I have IBS, so I’m constantly in the bathroom (sorry, folks, for the overshare), but it’s not nearly as time consuming as it was when I worked in an office. Plus, being at home and having the ability to clean myself thoroughly afterward is a huge bonus and makes me way more comfortable. When I’m comfortable, I get more done.

      2. Sleeve McQueen*

        “The LW said “I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine” That’s anecdotal data. It doesn’t mean that everyone had the same experience.”
        Yeah, when he was three my son escaped the neighbours’ house, crossed the road and came home. I am not out here saying “three-year-olds can cross roads unsupervised” (I was saying “maybe the playdates will be here when neighbours’ Grandma is in charge”)

    10. Antares*

      I’m in the same demographic as the LW. I don’t know if I’m in crazy town or what, but I don’t know a single person who really works from home. They’re either taking care of kids half the time, hanging out with their spouse, or trading memes with friends. I’m the only one I know who has to be in the office full time, and I get shamed by EVERYONE. CONSTANTLY. Haha, look at Antares actually doing work! Sucker!
      It’s getting really tiring.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I don’t question that you don’t personally know anyone who doesn’t actually work from home. I’m the opposite, in that I don’t know *anyone* who doesn’t work, yet stays employed.

        And that includes people who were pushed out of a job for not working (while being in the office full time).

        So, anecdata versus anecdata, which set will win? :p

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          I’m with you, ATH. My friends and I are all working so much more now that we’re working from home. We’ve talked about meeting up for an outdoor picnic for lunch just to break up our work days but we’ve never been able to find a day where all of us can spare the time.

          So, yeah, I have no idea how Antares’s friends are still employed.

          1. meggers*

            Agreed – I have friends who because they wfh and “take care of kids” probably work well over 8 hours a day and can’t always separate work and home easily.

            Also, I have joked often that I can “not work” while in the office just as easily as from home. (And I’ve done it before!)

            1. Jules of the River*

              I actually found it easier to “not work” in the office, since my butt-in-seat time was so visible. Being at home means all people see is what I actually produce, which puts pressure on me to be working whenever I’m at my desk (rather than sitting in front of a screen with a bunch of fancy looking charts pulled up, along with an ebook in a discreet corner which is the only thing getting any attention).

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, me too. I’ve never been as productive at work as during my 18+ months of WFH, but I realize I’ve been lucky in that we have a big house, with separate office space for both my husband and me. Our son’s been in school for most of the pandemic, with the exception of two months (mid-March to mid-May 2020), and even then he was old and motivated enough to handle his remote schoolwork with little supervision.

            I went in one day last week, for only the second time since the start of the pandemic, mainly because my occupational healthcare provider is right next door to my office building, and I went in for my influenza shot (paid by my employer). I really enjoyed my day, even if it was very quiet at the office, with maybe 20 percent occupation or less. But I didn’t get much work done. I loved meeting two of our new hires for the very first time in person, and I was more tired afterwards than after a WFH day. We took a full hour for lunch, just to talk. I had a huge grin on my face for most of the day, even under my mask (we can take our masks off while at our desks or eating/drinking, but masks are strongly recommended elsewhere).

            That said, I really hope that we don’t get any mandates about the number of days per week we have to go to the office, because while I can see the value in team building and some socializing at work, I don’t want to have to make up for that by working longer days to get my job done.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I expect some of the workers are picking up the slack at night once their kids are in bed, only Antares doesn’t see that.

        2. Anecdote.*

          Anecdata is not a word. Singular is anecdote and plural is anecdotes. Data is the opposite of an anecdote so it doesn’t make sense either.

      2. LKW*

        I’ve been working remote long before the pandemic started. I get my stuff done and sure, sometimes I take a breather to get the mail or a snack, but I’d do that in the office too.

      3. New But Not New*

        Wow. I have worked exclusively from home for years and I assure you that if I did not work I would not have a job.

        Besides, how do you know what activities people are engaged in at home? News flash: goofing off is possible in the office too!

        You may want to lose the attitude, or find a healthier workplace.

      4. somanyquestions*

        I think you’re making that up. I really do.

        People mock you from home for working while they say they’re doing nothing, but they keep their jobs while refusing to work. I mean, did you mean to put /s at the end of that?

        1. Fran Fine*

          Or, her friends could be telling her this, but exaggerating. I used to tell people I sat at home all day and barely worked, but that was because at the start of the pandemic and most of last year, our workload as a group decreased. So yeah, some days, I watched Netflix all day and did yoga/Pilates, but trust and believe that when work came my way, I was busy.

          1. They Called Me....Skeletor*

            Or it could be true which would tell me that her data is being derived from a group of people who are–exclusively–not well-suited at all for a work from home situation. In which case, it will catch up with them and they will be unemployed soon which will invalidate her data.

            1. A*

              And are all apparently in work functions that have zero metrics and KPIs that would reflect the work being blown off. I’m honestly having a hard time thinking of a salaried function with the ability to WFH that wouldn’t be measurable in some way. If everyone else is apparently not working, then I guess their roles aren’t really needed anyways? Even the creative roles I’m aware of have some form of accountability or work output that would be an indicator.

      5. A Wall*

        Not only do I not believe that’s true, I don’t even believe that you believe that it’s true. I think you want it to be true so you can have a good reason to nurse resentment at people who work remotely.

      6. They Called Me....Skeletor*

        I’ve been considering your comment, Antares. I’m not sure, but I think your the part about how “…I don’t know a single person who really works from home. They’re either taking care of kids half the time, hanging out with their spouse, or trading memes with friends[.]…” may not, perhaps, be the scathing criticism about work from home you are hoping it will be. There may be another factor or two in play here.

      7. A*

        Wow, definitely the opposite of my experience and I’m also in the same demographic as OP. In my line of work we have hard metrics to measure performance, and productivity increased across the board when people started WFH – including those watching/teaching young kids etc. To varying degrees, of course, but still an increase across the board.

        Everyone I work with and know in my demographic strongly prefers WFH, so they go above and beyond to try and show that in office is not necessary for efficiency and productivity. Not to mention general career ambition and pride in actually doing the job they are being paid for.

        I don’t doubt there are people tat take advantage, but I’d be surprised if that was anything more than a small minority. Especially given that by the time I was in college (mid to late 2000s), remote work was already being incorporated into curriculums in regards to learning how to network etc within those environments and how the advancement of technology has changed that landscape.

    11. pmg1984*

      This is definitely somebody that is more concerned with butts in the seats than actual productivity.

    12. chewingle*

      Yeah, it might be better for LW if they can find fulfillment in their work that doesn’t involve having the company hold coworkers captive so they can socialize.

      FYI, most of my family and friends who are vaccinated have still gotten COVID. So it is still a good excuse.

  2. Nicosloanic*

    Ooh boy. I don’t feel like OP’s going to get a favorable response here, and I wish they hadn’t used a generational signifier because I hate it when the debate goes down that road. This is not a generational thing really.

    1. Anononon*

      Yeah, the responses aren’t going to be pretty. I just hope that, while Alison’s response is 100% spot on that OP’s mindset and attitude is wrong, this isn’t absolutely egregious like some clueless letters that are sent (e.g. the messed up paycheck letter).

        1. tangerineRose*

          It’s kinda clueless though. The LW even said If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?”

          I’d understand the LW’s point of view if there was something that required people to be in the office, but I didn’t find that in the letter.

          1. Cait*

            I think clueless is putting it nicely. This is how I read the letter. “I’m a millennial so don’t assume I’m an old fuddy-duddy. I have an ample social life so don’t assume I just want human interaction. But I think everyone needs to go back to work. I haven’t been deeply personally impacted by this pandemic so I assume it’s the same for everyone. My boss doesn’t agree which irks me. I think she needs to figure out her childcare situation soon because I don’t want to be sitting alone at my desk. Everyone needs to stop being lazy and come back to the office because my need for comradery and company culture is more important than their ability to navigate an ongoing pandemic, not deal with a daily commute, find flexible childcare, and keep themselves and their loved ones safe. I practiced risky behavior during tan ongoing pandemic and was fine! The 3+ million people dead from COVID are obviously just a blip! Why are people valuing their health and safety over in-person meetings that could’ve been an email and teambuilding exercises over their lunch hour? How do I convinced people to put themselves and their families at risk so I can lean over their cubicle to ask them about their weekend?”
            I appreciate Alison’s response because I would’ve laid into the OP with a lot less tact.

      1. Betteauroan*

        That one was hard to beat! Yes, OP will get some flack but I can at least understand where she’s coming from and I don’t think she’s a horrible person for feeling the way she does. I think she’ll have a better understanding of where her co-workers are coming from after reading these comments.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I’m very pro-remote work, and I am still bracing myself for the comments we are about to see… The wording of the letter is pretty unfortunate in many places, I’ll say that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’ll offer: OP, good that you ran this by Alison (don’t make this your hill) and the commenters (hoo boy, don’t make this your hill) rather than take another run at your subordinates, manager, or CEO.

        Sometimes people have different approaches and there is no one right way: a lot of different right ways can work. They can even mesh.

    3. Pippa K*

      I agree – at my workplace, it’s quite senior people who are the most casual about covid precautions, possibly because they aren’t in classrooms and labs with students and don’t have small children at home. And our students are younger than millennials but many of them share the high risk tolerance of the OP, as well as the apparent inability to imagine that other people’s lives and concerns may be different from theirs. It’s frustrating all round, and patience is wearing thin in more than one direction.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, a good thing to take from this might be:
        • Other people’s risk tolerance is different from yours, and you can both be right.
        • Other people’s actual risks might be different from yours, and you don’t know the minutia of the medical conditions of the people in their lives.
        • Other people’s approach to remote work might be different from yours, and you can both be right.

        I would take a deep breath and Let. It. All. Go. Frame it as “until the pandemic is way more over” if that helps.

      2. Gatomon*

        This is a good point. Many senior people in my company have been in the office more because they have private office spaces and even floors where there’s significantly fewer people around. As someone who worked in a cube farm with 30 others at max capacity, no way do I want to be back. I already had a breakthrough case after visiting the office for necessary reasons and there were maybe 3 people around during the 3 hours I was there. (None of them were masked of course….)

      3. New But Not New*

        Can’t speak to your workplace, but I’m older and most of my friends are older and you can best believe we have taken Covid precautions seriously! No crowded spring break bars or beaches for us.

        1. BubbleTea*

          The vast majority of Millennials are years past Spring Break being a factor in their lives, unless it is Spring Break for their college-age children.

    4. HigherEdAdminista*

      Agreed! I am a millennial and think LW needs to mind their own business. There are good reasons for in person work, but we have just been through a hellish two years on top of a very difficult last four… like, give people some understanding. The world doesn’t exist to live up to your standards! Consider there is more than one way to live and for things to work out! Stop judging people based on your own arbitrary criteria for what is “right” or “good”!

      There has been so much pain and loss these last two years… so much stress… it honestly doesn’t seem to stop. Even without pandemic related issues, it seems everyone I know is in some kind of crisis or suffering. They are all just trying to survive. That isn’t an excuse. It is life. People want to survive and maybe enjoy their life a little… attitude’s like LW’s show that you can be any age and be out of touch.

      1. Trillian Astra*

        I agree with what you say here – I am also a millennial (which, to be honest, I don’t really know why OP had to include that, you don’t get LWs saying “i’m a boomer” or whatever). As I was reading this, I was thinking “Who is OP to make people go back to the office? Where do they get off?” And then I realized that OP is having such an emotional response to the pandemic but they are expressing it in the exact opposite way that I do. OP is asking “why can’t everything go back to normal?” and I think “nothing will ever be the same”.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          You are absolutely right, and being far kinder than I was. I wasn’t taking my own advice!

          I am just so burnt out on people who want their own peace of mind so bad they want to bulldoze over everyone else’s. LW likely had or knows people who had negatives experiences and would benefit from reckoning with that instead of working so hard to get everyone else to sweep the changes under the rug. Things won’t be the same again, but that doesn’t mean it has to be terrible.

          1. Betteauroan*

            Speaking of bulldozing, wouldn’t it be nice if all these companies that don’t require in-person workers vacated all these sprawling office spaces and just knock them all down and make them into green space? Ah, but the tax write offs would be gone so we can forget that little pipe dream

        2. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

          I would posit that OP specified that they’re a millennial in an attempt to pre-empt the sort of “oh, this person must be a boomer, they’re so out of touch with what The Youths care about these days” response that you absolutely know they would have gotten if they hadn’t specified. Not that it’s going to help, in this case, but I suspect that’s why they said it.

          1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

            I assumed they mentioned being a millennial as sort of a signifier that there isn’t a spouse and 3 kids and a grandkid over all the time (which would likely provide the interpersonal contact they are seeking) which would more likely (not always, obviously) be the case with someone in their 50s/60s.

              1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

                Right, that’s what I meant – they’re lonely because there’s nobody else around (in contrast with someone in their 50s who likely has a spouse or kids or grandkids)

              2. A*

                Yes, although it’s also worth noting that Millenials – more so than previous generations – are trending away from marriage/kids as assumed milestones. Still commonplace, for sure, but times are definitely changing. I’m in my mid 30s and amongst my friends and colleagues of the same age (scattered across several different countries and US states) I’d say only ~30-40% are married, even less with kids. Many of them still want those milestones / life paths, but people are ‘settling down’ at later ages. I can count on one hand the number of people I know that got married and had kids in their 20s or by their early 30s.

                Obviously this is colored by my own experiences, and birds of a feather flock together – so this is all anecdotal. My main point is just that times have changed and are continuing to change in this regard. In part for societal reasons and the acceptance/awareness that other options and life paths exist and can be equally fulfilling – and in part because a large portion of us have been set back financially to the point where ‘settling down’ in their 20s/early 30s would be challenging at best – irresponsible at worse. Graduating into the great recession and pandemic hitting just at the point when the play field was starting to be levelled, and all that.

              1. A Feast of Fools*

                Yup. Early Gen-Xer here. It’s just me, my five cats, and one dog inside a three-bedroom, two-bath house that sits on 1/2 an acre.

                Please, Corporate Overlords, for the love of all that is unholy, do NOT make me go back to the office on a regular basis!!

                1. Free now (and forever)*

                  I’m sure your dog is hoping that you never go back and the cats are wondering what you’ve been doing working from THEIR home and wondering how much longer it will be until they can get rid of you during the day.

        3. Mannequin*

          “Nothing will ever be the same” EXACTLY…and I’m fine with watching the changes from a safe distance until the situation reaches some kind of stability.

      2. Grumpy Shark*

        I am also a millennial and I don’t enjoy the daily commute. Also, daily commute puts a lot of pressure on environmental impacts, so I really think if in an area where people have proven over the past 2 years that they can work remotely they should have the option. I save tons of CO2 emissions alone if I don’t commute daily to the office. Also, it is scientifically proven that the daily commute isn’t good for mental health because it’s not considered fun time for almost all employees.

        I have been working from home in the last 2 years and enjoy it very much over coming to the office everyday. Also, since it opened up more options for working from remote, which opened up options for my company to hire people that we couldn’t have hired if we were to work from our offices everyday. It’s not only a good policy for employees, but also good for employers to offer options.

      3. rr*

        “give people some understanding”

        Honestly, what I have found in a lot of people is that they expect understanding to be extended to them when they need it, but don’t see that other people also may need it. I think it is just an unfortunate reality in a lot of instances and pointing it out never does any good.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      Agree. I’m within the same generation as the OP (likely the other end of it) wit a vaccinated child and it’s been so hard needing to be back in the office 5 days a week when I know others do not share my same level of precautions.

    6. Czhorat*

      It’s not entirely generational, but OP is single and living in Manhattan.

      I’m in the same city (see below). I’m married, with kids, and living out in the suburbs. The cost – in terms of time, money, and absence from family – is far greater for me than it is for OP.

      There’s a lesson here in walking in other people’s shoes.

      There’s also a bigger point that if the work CAN be done remotely many employers could and perhaps should have shifted this years ago. The pandemic pushed them to make a change that is in the long run better for many of us.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I recall reading (pre-pandemic) that not making improvements to factories would be illogical because it’s leaving money on the floor. But in practice it’s not so simple to explain how the new system will work and how fast it will pay for itself, so people stick with the tried and true rather than the new and untested.

        The pandemic forced us to test a bunch of things, whether we wanted to change or not.

      2. BRR*

        I just to work in nyc and live in the suburbs as well. Not only cost (one day of skipping transit saved me $30) but I found that in the suburbs I had a better space to work from home compared to my coworkers who lived in the city.

    7. HailRobonia*

      Actually, I think it’s good they did. We have a stereotype that the “return to the office” people are boomers and this is a good example that breaks that mold.

      1. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

        Yes, my thought was that the generational signifier was because they were saying “this isn’t a case of being older and set in my ways.”

      2. RB Purchase*

        I agree! I actually think OP may have done that on purpose to head off any boomer discussions because her stance is very “boomerish” (I say this in reference to the stereotype of rigidity to tradition that Boomers have received and *not* to the actual generation which is just as nuanced as any other).

      3. New But Not New*

        This boomer has worked at home since before the pandemic and if I never see the office again it will be fine with me. Stereotypes suck. Individualism rules!

    8. Blomma*

      Exactly! I am a chronically ill Millennial who has found WFH to be much easier on me physically – but I would feel that way regardless of my generation! I am sociable with my coworkers when we’re at work of course, but their loneliness or whatever takes a backseat to my own health needs.

      1. Lexi Lynn*

        I’m technically a boomer (born a few months before the end of the generation) and also chronically ill. WFH is so much better for me – I haven’t had sick people tell me how ill their kids have been “but I never take sickdays!” or had people decide to spray harsh chemicals while cleaning their desks and I need to run for clean air in the past 18 months. I’m sorry that some people are bored, but not ever going back to the office.

        1. Why did I go to library school?*

          As another chronically ill person, it’s amazing how while working from home I went from constantly scraping the bottom of the barrel for sick leave to having more hours of it than I could possibly spend! All that from simply not having to drag myself to the office and be exposed to the stuff you mention. It’s definitely made me reassess my priorities for future jobs. I think OP really needs to do some reassessing of their own, with regards to other people’s priorities.

        2. NYC Grunt*

          Ugh, I hear you on the harsh cleaning chemicals. I have moderate to severe asthma that gets triggered by indoor/outdoor allergies and strong smells, especially from cleaning agents. My inhaler can only do so much. I can’t always get away from using stuff like bleach but when it’s used in my own home, I can open all the windows and run fans and so forth to dissipate the chlorine in the air a little faster. But I can’t do that in an office bull pen (with a decades-old HVAC that hasn’t been cleaned since the Nixon era) full of people who cluck endlessly about every damned thing. Someone once sprayed the bathroom with so much Lysol or Febreze or whatever it was, it actually overwhelmed my shared office from down the hall and around the corner and I had an asthma attack right there at work.

          After the last 18 months of WFH where I can control my environment to a certain degree, use the bathroom whenever I want without feeling self conscious, and save money on public transit and lunches out, all while completing MORE work than when I was in-office, I am not at all enthusiastic about returning to the office. The LAST thing I am worried about is keeping a social butterfly coworker from feeling lonely!

          But alas, my employer is a butts-in-seats kind of place, so though we are currently on a hybrid schedule, we will be back to full time in the office in the spring. I know for a fact that Employer has made no changes to our office, not even to give us proper cubicle walls so people can at least keep their germs to themselves. So I’ll soon be back working with people who spray harsh cleaning chemicals and gross smelling stuff like Febreze and plug-in air fresheners.

          1. Tabby*

            They make non-chlorinated bleach, which might help your asthma a bit. I get hellish headaches from chlorine, so I use that stuff, but only if I absolutely have to — or perhaps iodine scrub, followed by rubbing alcohol to prevent staining, which is… a lot of work, unfortunately. My sympathies on how horribly smelly most cleaning agents are, though. You’d think we could come up with something that doesn’t create havoc to the senses and still gets things clean.

    9. Awkward Interviewee*

      No kidding. Especially since we older millennials are pushing 40. Many of us have spouses, kids, and mortgages – we’re not all young, carefree 20-somethings. I’m an old millennial with a small child who loves working from home currently, and I think most people in my situation feel similarly.

      1. Stitch*

        I’m a millennial with a kid too young to be vaccinated. His daycare is also super strict about illness (understandably) so if he had any cold symptoms at all he has to be home. Without the ability to work at home I’d be screwed.

        1. ophelia*

          exactly this. My husband’s firm (also in Manhattan) is making noise about returning to work, but honestly until our young kids are vaccinated, having him commute on the subway every day–and figuring out caregiving schedules for inevitable classroom closures–is nightmare-fuel.

      2. not for this one*

        According to some definitions we started turning 40 this year. :-) I don’t love working from home, but I’m also not pushing any return to office beyond what my employer mandates. And I’m vocally speaking up for people who might not want to return and don’t want to say so because I’m a manager who already has a reputation for speaking her mind.

        Pro tip, I got a personal thank-you from an exec after I started the Q&A rolling in a difficult return to work town hall. They sincerely wanted to hear from people.

      3. Howard Bannister*

        “Pushing 40…” The top 4 google results say “Millennial” starts in 81, 81, 81, 80, 81… making me a 40-year-old Millennial. :)

      4. Ampersand*

        Same situation here, but a couple years older. And almost everyone I work with (ranging in age from mid-20s to almost 60) wants to continue working from home and does not want to go back to the office.

    10. Jack Straw*

      Hard agree on the generational thing. Millennials already get a bad (and often undeserved) rap for this kind of individual, me-centered thinking, I hate seeing it here where it’s definitely isn’t something that only applies to 25-40 year olds.

      1. Betteauroan*

        Funny, I happened upon an article written back in 1993 complaining about Gen Xers and how lazy and entitled we were. Same thing that’s been being said about millennials for years.

        1. ShanShan*

          People used to say it about the Boomers, too, when they were our age. Read any older Dave Barry if you don’t believe me. That was like 30% of the jokes he told.

          It’s the standard jab any older generation makes about any younger generation, largely out of jealousy and/or fear of being replaced.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this has been a thing for thousands of years, since Aristotle at least. It’s nothing new.

    11. WorkInProgress*

      Not as much generational as stage of life maybe? I have worked from home for more than a decade, and being home when my kid gets home from school and saving the money in wear & tear on my car, as well as the time I save has been incredible. I have more time with my spouse, more time with our child (who is in HS now but was in kindergarten we I started WFH) and never need to take a day off for mundane things like the meter reader.

      When I was single and lived alone I don’t know that it would have been as valuable to me. Plus being early in my career being “seen” and making connections was more vital. Now everybody knows me :-)

      A few years from now, when my child is off in college or out in the real world, maybe we will want to downsize, move closer to work, and getting out everyday to go to the office maybe more appealing?

      1. allathian*

        Perhaps. I do know that when I returned to work from maternity leave, I really valued my commute, and would’ve hated WFH even with my kid in daycare. I needed the commute to transition from mommy-me to professional-me and back again, and it was also valuable as me-time, when nobody was making any demands on me.

        It’s much easier now, because parenting a basically healthy preteen is a lot less intense most of the time than parenting a baby or a toddler.

        I also valued going into the office, mainly for the company of adults who weren’t family members or (mommy) friends.

    12. Nanani*

      To the extent that there is a generational trend, doesn’t it point the other way? LW is closer to being an outlier in their cohort than a representative.

    13. Liz T*

      The good(?) news is, this weird take goes against most stereotypes about millennials. (And Manhattanites with social lives? idk this is so bizarre and un-self-aware)

    14. Alex*

      It’s also interesting that “millennial” is still used like we’re in the year 2000 – I’m almost 40 and a millennial myself – I’ve been in the workforce for almost 20 years in some capacity. It really doesn’t work anymore as a shorthand for “kids these days”…

    15. Hermione Danger*

      As an early stage Gen-X, I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to not have to work in an office again. It’s not bout generations and entitlement. It’s about recognizing that my best work gets done when I am able to work to my requirements and not my employer’s arbitrary needs.

    16. Rebecca Stewart*

      Yep. The two workers here are Gen X and are delighted with work from home because it makes it a lot easier to handle their mental illnesses when they don’t have to fake being Entirely Normal And Totally Okay all day long. Having the emotional support of the feline micromanager who sometimes edits their code by walking across the keyboard is also good for them. As is the ability to lie down on their own safe bed for an hour at lunch and just handle what’s going on in their heads.

  3. Starbuck*

    Can’t help but notice that OP didn’t give any specific work-task related reasons for people to come in (but at least they remembered to tell us they are single!) just:

    “I still think the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture”

    Which, fine, you can schedule that if you need to? But the overall tone is just a real unwillingness to consider other people’s perspectives and needs and how they might differ from one’s own.

    1. Nicosloanic*

      Honestly the fact that OP makes a point of stating up front that she is single, childfree milennial almost made this letter seem fake. People in those categories don’t generally introduce themselves that way when it doesn’t lend credence to their point.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Eh, I’ve described myself right here as a childfree GenX/Millenial (some disagreement on where exactly the boundaries are regarding the year). It’s not a significant thing to have a descriptor used as verification of letter authenticity.

            1. kitryan*

              I thought ’78 made me solidly Gen X, although at the younger extreme, and my 5 yrs younger sister an ‘old’ millenial. Huh. I feel like these divisions are useful in some respects, as shorthand for common experiences, but they both elide over other differences in background (i.e. when cell phones become part of your generation’s landscape changes depending on class/economic status) and are moving targets that think piece journalists are constantly revising for their latest ‘kids these days’ stories.

            2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              I self-refer as “Oregon Trail Generation,” though ofc that doesn’t work as a signifier everywhere. It is nice in that it puts me in the same age range as my spouse, where otherwise I’d be considered a Millennial married to a GenXer, which sounds way more May/Decemberish than is actually the case.

            1. Hamburke*

              plus the Ghostbusters reference…yup! I’m a couple years older but usually identify with both. definitely a cross-over vibe from those of us who came of age as the world went digital (mid-70s to mid-80s) and a different story than my youngest sister who doesn’t remember life without internet access.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            1977 through 1983 is sort of the transition period between Gen X and Millenials, often referred to as Xennials. The logic being that this group primarily had their childhood pre-internet era, but were teens/young 20s when the internet boom occurred, so they adapted to it better than older Gen Xers may have.

            1. Siege*

              We’re also often people who had early-adopter parents for technology. I’m technically 1976, but my experiences track very much more with Xennials than Gen X given that we had our first computer when I was 8 and I was programming simple shareware style games by 10. (We didn’t have the internet, but given that we had three computers by the time I was 10, I really grew up with them.)

              1. Betteauroan*

                Really? Computers were so expensive back then that the average family didn’t have one until the early 90s.

                1. Siege*

                  A Commodore 64, which was one of them, cost less than $600 new by 1984. Or, adjusted for inflation, about what I paid for my Mac a few years ago. The Commodore Plus/4, another of them, was even cheaper at the time, at $299 or $750 now. (It was also a disaster in so many ways.) The third was a Commodore 128, which came out slightly later, and cost $300. My dad likes technology, and Commodore was very happy to help him spend his money – they intentionally created cheaper computers for a larger market. I don’t know the details of their finances, but my parents were just very ordinary unionized blue-collar workers with two kids, so I guess the computers must have been affordable.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              That’s me – childhood was pre-internet days, first experience with the web (in an early form) was at university, I was working when the ‘hey you can use this new thing to make money!’ bit really kicked in.

              1. allathian*

                I graduated from high school in 1991 and got my first computer as a graduation present from my parents. I got my first email address when I started college that fall, and my first modem-based internet connection (a measly 56 kbit/s) when I started writing my thesis a few years later. My dad was an early adopter of the PC, so we had a computer at home from 1984 onward. But it was DOS-based, and I wasn’t interested in it at the time, because it had no games and a horribly ugly black/amber plasma screen… As a postgraduate student in the early 1970s, my mom used the university mainframe for statistical analysis. She knew Fortran, and I suspect that she still has some of the printouts somewhere in her archives.

              2. kitryan*

                I was in Prodigy chat rooms for comic books my last couple years of high school, as my dad was sort of midrange on the ‘early adopter’ side of the bell curve, but I didn’t have an email or really know what a webpage was until college/university. In college I made a personal page that was just a list of links to other pages, with a garish (in hindsight) tiled background. I think it had a site visitors counter at the bottom :)
                Other tidbits- my school taught typing in 6th grade (good!) so I can touch type, which has been handy, but the teacher was 65 if she was a day and insisted we learn on typewriters (and we had to have one at home too, for homework). I think there’d only be a few year window where 90% of the kids at the school would have computers at their home but had to learn typing on a typewriter. I also didn’t have to type my school work as a rule until college. Looking back, it was a bit of a weird in between time.

            3. STG*

              1979 here. My first experience with the internet was in 7th grade and was all text based. Two years later and we had internet capable computers at school (with zero moderation….not smart).

            4. ShanShan*

              I mean, I was born several years after that, and the internet didn’t really take off until I was in high school. It’s a very fuzzy line.

          2. Cold Fish*

            I’m in the same situation, Gen X/Millenial. 20 years ago it was ’77/’78 and it has since migrated to ’81/’82. I’ve even seen ’84 as the start date of Millenial recently.

            1. Sloanico*

              This is off topic but I hate that, as someone born in one of those cut-off years; I’ve only ever seen it used in a “but not me, I’m COOL, I’m not a millennial!!” way. By people who are within six months of my birthdate :P

      2. Allie*

        With that as context, it almost sounds as though OP wants others in the office for socialization, as opposed to anything else. Perhaps they feel lonely without the typical, day to day work interactions?

        (Not that I think this is the right frame to have, simply what I interpreted through their words)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This letter reminded me of an old joke about three people stranded on an island, who found a bottle, and a genie popped out saying they were granted three wishes. They agreed on one wish each. The first two people said they wanted to be home, and poof! they disappeared. The third looked around and said “I miss those two. Bring them back.”

        2. Aggretsuko*

          That sounds exactly like the issue: OP is single (as in, alone in pandemic) and really, really needs the socialization….and kind of wants to force that by making everyone come back to the office.

        3. Cold Fish*

          Not saying I totally agree with OP (as a Xenial, single, never went WFH) but I can see where OP is coming from. And I don’t understand the hostility many are aiming at OP.

          Socialization/Networking/Team Building are all work related reasons the OP gives on why they want more office interaction, and she isn’t necessarily wrong. For me, a large chuck of my job satisfaction is based on office environment/relationships. And you just can’t maintain that kind of relationship over the phone/zoom.

          It could be OP is scared that that kind of interaction is not coming back, which would result in a less enjoyable work environment. Also, OP doesn’t state what kind of work she is in. If it is more creative, that socialization could be a key component in how OP’s creativity is inspired. That could also significantly effect her job/performance.

          OP does say they have a social network out of the office. However, the job takes a large chunk of time out of your life. So I get that isolation is probably a significant factor. But I don’t think that makes OP 100% in the wrong either. Isolation is very stressful.

          I do think OP could spend a little time pondering why others may have a different reaction to coming back to the office, try to empathize a little with people in different situations than her. She did write in to an advice column so it could be she is trying to see other perspectives but is struggling with it.

          1. Le Sigh*

            I am an introvert quite content to WFH, but I do get the reasons OP likely wants to go back. I think the hostility is stemming at least in part from some really tone deaf statements in this letter. It’s one thing to say I’m having trouble with this WFH set up (a lot of people are!), what can I do? It’s another to say you want your boss to come into the office so you can spend time together when she has a young child that can’t be vaccinated and may even have challenges finding childcare (like a lot of people right now). Or to assert that because she came into the office before vaccines and now there is a vaccine, there’s no good reason not to come in (there are still many!).

            Or my favorite “If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?” Good lord this is offensive. The arrogance and willful blindness is kind of mind boggling. I care about my job quite a lot! But it has been an exhausting, soul-crushing 18 months. I also work better with fewer distractions in general and less time spent commuting. People have different work styles, different jobs, and different needs to do their work well and OP really doesn’t seem to understand that.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, this. I’m not surprised that this hostile letter has generated so much hostility in response.

          2. Observer*

            And I don’t understand the hostility many are aiming at OP

            The hostility is coming because on the one hand, the OP clearly wants what they want for primarily personal, not business reasons. AND they have an extremely judgemental attitude about it, with a totally unwillingness / inability to even consider other points of view (except for blaming the boss’ stance on being a new mother!)

            Socialization/Networking/Team Building are all work related reasons the OP gives on why they want more office interaction, and she isn’t necessarily wrong.

            And not necessarily right. They don’t offer any reason to believe that these things cannot be built up using the appropriate tools. They don’t even offer any reason to believe that they have even thought about it.

            If it is more creative, that socialization could be a key component in how OP’s creativity is inspired. That could also significantly effect her job/performance.

            Which, if true, is all good and fine. But it is NOT a good look to be this judgemental of others who do NOT have that need, nor to force your employees to do something that doesn’t work for them to inspire you. It’s one thing if these were support staff who could not do their supporting jobs from home. But even support staff are generally not responsible for stimulating their boss’ creativity!

          3. iglwif*

            People aren’t being hostile because OP wants to be back in the office. It’s because OP seems unable to respect the many, many reasons other people might have to want or need to stay home.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              And wants to force the people who report to her to come in for not good reason other than she thinks it should be that way

          4. Nope*

            *Socialization/Networking/Team Building are all work related reasons the OP gives on why they want more office interaction, and she isn’t necessarily wrong. For me, a large chuck of my job satisfaction is based on office environment/relationships. And you just can’t maintain that kind of relationship over the phone/zoom. *

            Maybe the term “work-related” is throwing you, because while your job satisfaction is related to work, the bottom line is that none of those reasons are “business need,” and business need is the real issue. Clearly, the majority of employees’ job satisfaction at that location is higher when they work from home, which is why they choose to do so. OP’s job satisfaction, desire to socialize, or feeling that networking and team building would be better in the office do not trump co-workers’ job satisfaction and ability to network and team build. I work for a multinational company with teams across states and continents. We were networking and team-building before the pandemic and our ability to do so hasn’t changed. Wanting to be in the office is, of course, valid. Wishing others felt the same way is valid as well. Deciding that those who prefer to WFH should be made to come into the office without business need because *I* want others there for *my* socialization and job satisfaction, despite upper management being fine with the WFH choice that others make for their job satisfaction, comes across as quite self-centered.

            1. allathian*

              Indeed. I do hope that the LW reads these comments and thinks about them in depth. Maybe the solution for her is to start looking for a job where the top management has and supports a butts-in-seats attitude.

        4. Starbuck*

          But then they also make a point of saying they have friends/active socializing outside of the office, so what is the truth??

          1. Allie*

            The work day is a huge part OF the day, though. It’s multiple hours spent with the same people, which means a lot more socializing with the same group. I’m in a job that requires me to work out in a plant, working twelve hour days with a crew of seven. Spending twelve hours with the same seven people means there’s a lot of conversation. If that was twelve hours, working over zoom or Slack with the seven people, then yeah, I can see how that could make it harder to feel connected.

            OP also explicitly says she wants her boss in the office so they can spend time with her. Not a feeling I can relate to, honestly. But that – and the rest of the post – screams loneliness.

            1. Jax*

              Thank you – the work day is a huge part of the day, and work friends can bring just as much happiness to my life as friends I made from other areas of my life.

              As an adult, I feel that there aren’t a lot of places outside of work to make new friends. Am I alone in that? I have made friends through church, occasionally through my kids’ activities… But my closest friends came from my past several jobs! Maybe it’s shameful to admit that my friends came from people who had no choice but to interact with me for 40 hours per week–but that’s my truth, and I suspect it’s similar for a lot of others.

              1. allathian*

                No, you aren’t wrong. I count myself lucky in that I’ve managed to retain my friends from high school and college through the decades. Since 1997, I’ve only made one true friend, when my son was a baby and I found a mommy friend I still treasure as one of my closest friends.

                I get along with the vast majority of my coworkers, but my work friendships are very situational. I don’t tend to keep in touch with former coworkers once they leave a job or I switch jobs. I’m happy to go to lunch or grab a coffee with them, but I have almost no interest in spending my free time with them (after work drinks once or twice a year, dinner with my teammates once a year, although obviously not last year and probably not this year, is about right) and I definitely don’t want to introduce any of them to my family.

        5. A*

          That was 100% my impression. Especially given that OP mentions they want Boss back in office in part so they can ‘spend more time with Boss’. Seems like unusual wording if the intent was more along the lines of ‘I need more guidance from Boss on something that is specific to work being done in office’. I got the impression that OP really enjoys the social aspect of working in office, which is great – but not driven by business needs and not in line with everyone’s preferences. Plenty of folks are able to work remotely and still feel connected to their colleagues, socialize with them virtually etc.

      3. Pop*

        If they hadn’t, I think there would be a lot of calling them an “out of touch boomer” or similar. I’m guessing they used those descriptors to preempt comments about age and try to argue that they’re not out of touch.

        1. New But Not New*

          “Out of touch boomer” is such an ageist phrase. I hate ageism, its as bad as any other ism.

      4. Lady Blerd*

        The millenial part is weird but the child free part could be LW akward way of saying she herself doesn’t have a specific reason to choose to WFH as opposed to coming in for work.

        1. Avril Ludgateau*

          I have no children (still a fence-sitter) and I can think of 20 million reasons I prefer WFH over the office, nonetheless.

          I do get the impression the OP listed their demographics because they’re the opposite of what one would expect from somebody opposed to WFH, like somebody else said to pre-empt dismissiveness that they are “out of touch”. At least from my anecdotal experience, and from the letters/comment sections I’ve seen here, there does seem to be a generational trend in attitudes toward WFH, and people with families and especially young children (who would be mid-to-older Millennials +) seemed to fare worse with remote work. Older workers – Gen X and above – seem to be less comfortable with virtual socialization than their Millennial and Zoomer counterparts, too, for the most part, whereas those of us who grew up with the Internet and all the tools of communication built into it – from email to BBS to forums, chat rooms, Instant Messenger, blogs, and finally social media – see it as real socialization even if distant.

          (Speaking very generally; I’m aware of the limitations of my perspective.)

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        I think single and child-free affect how you are feeling after being cooped up with limited social options for a long time.

        She also lists having a roommate, which is not really relevant to anything workwise but does suggest she gets some human contact when in her apartment. If anything, one might be looking to go into work to occasionally get out of each other’s way.

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          She may have mentioned the single in general and roommate in particular as indicators that she doesn’t have a good WFH space. Which I get and commiserate with! For many people going fully WFH long-term isn’t tenable for cost/space issues. But still not good reasons to pressure her direct reports (or her manager!) to start coming in mid-pandemic.

      6. Tobias Funke*

        Nah, IMO this is a way to say “I’m not like THOSE OTHER millenials” – same thing as when women say they’re #notlikeothergirls or when fat folks feel the need to tell us about their blood pressure and blood sugar.

      7. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

        Huh, I would actually assume that this letter is real and OP’s been reading this comment section for some time based on those same signifiers! People would have instantly jumped to “boomer, no children” if she hadn’t specified, and proceeded to react as if that was fact and not advice column fanfic, so it’s helpful for her to have established it up front.

        (Also, in this case, “single, no children” ALSO establishes that she has a lower risk exposure than some other people, which is once again a helpful thing to have established up front.)

      8. Lynn Whitehat*

        I thought they included it to indicate that they are totally alone when WFH. i.e. not getting any social needs met from a spouse.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      I am so sick of hearing “company culture” as a reason for most things.

      Too often I’ve seen that as a red flag for something toxic.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        My experience is that the higher up you go, the less these people have the faintest notion of what their company’s culture really is, yet they think that they can set this culture by fiat.

        That being said, in this case the CEO really is setting the culture about working from home: a rare instance of the top guy not merely actually setting the culture, but in a good way, too! Pity the LW is trying to screw that up.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Agreed. And if your company culture can only be maintained by people working in the office [enter desired percentage of management here] of the time, your company culture must frankly be pretty weak.

    3. Panicked*

      I agree, and while it’s challenging, there is no reason why you can’t network, team build, or maintain a strong company culture with a remote/hybrid environment. Does it take extra work? Sure, but honestly, a happy remote employee is going to help build that culture far more than an unhappy in-office one.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Even supposing OP’s wishes come true and everyone comes back, how can one maintain a strong company culture if the people were forced back into the office with vague threats like “If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?” They might unite against a common adversary that pushed them back into the office – I guess that’s teambuilding of sorts. Beyond that, I can’t think of how this would make the workplace healthier (both metaphorically, and literally, since we are after all still in the pandemic).

    5. Siege*

      I mean, my office is a great place for networking (with insane people I literally do not trust with my safety, COVID or otherwise), team building (I am a team of one), and a strong company culture (with insane people who do very different jobs than I do and refuse to understand that we don’t all look at the world through the same lens). Add in that I am still recovering from and adapting to a physical medical trauma and a medication-induced disability, I am much happier at home, with my own bathroom and bed, and OP’s judgement call that the things they value in their workplace are somehow universal is really annoying.

    6. Scarlet2*

      Also, the fact that we’re still very much in a pandemic situation absolutely trumps “networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture”. Seriously, get your priorities straight.

      I’m really frustrated by people who try to pretend that Covid is not a risk anymore (and it’s not made better by OP bragging about coming to the office before being vaccinated)…

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        Right. I do have some sympathy with OP – “I used to really enjoy my job, and now it seems like everything that made it fun has gone away.” I get that, and I’m sure it sucks. But I’ll be honest, she lost me when she started talking about “running out of excuses not to come in,” and ” I chose to put myself and others at risk when I didn’t have to, so why won’t everyone else? You’re all spoiling my fun!” is not the winning argument she seems to think it is.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Lol not at all. Your vaccine is not a shield, OP. Like Alison said – you got lucky you didn’t get sick pre-vaccine. Who’s to say your luck won’t run out shortly?

          Your employees don’t want to end up being one of those so-called breakthrough cases, and I don’t blame them for staying home as much as possible to prevent that situation.

      2. A*

        It’s a red herring anyways. People have their preferences on networking and rapport building approaches, but in person interaction is certainly not the only method. What do people think those in global positions are doing? Spending their whole career without any sense of collaboration, networking etc?

  4. EBStarr*

    A lot going on here, but this: “I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine” just needs to be highlighted because it’s bad logic. You can ride your motorcycle without a helmet for a year and be absolutely fine, but that doesn’t mean that you should go around telling everyone else it’s time to take off their helmets.

    1. Jessie*

      And maybe it’s been “completely fine” because there were fewer people in the office and therefore fewer points of virus transmission!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Or maybe OP was at one point asymptomatic, and gave it to whomever they interacted with on their commute, out to get lunch, etc, and those people were not, in fact, “completely fine”!

        1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

          Right, that. Maybe substitute “it was fine,” with “*I* was fine,” and have a think about that…

      2. Observer*

        And maybe it’s been “completely fine” because there were fewer people in the office and therefore fewer points of virus transmission!

        Quite possible!

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OMG I gasped at that part!

      Now let me tell you about the time I drove drunk and lived to tell about it… Completely fine! Y’all are just making excuses not to. smh

    3. KayDeeAye*

      Also, probably part of the reason it was “completely fine” is that the number of people in the office was (is?) still low. So even though the OP was coming into the office, they probably weren’t interacting with many people and thus were somewhat protected, in spite of themselves.

      But yeah, generations of people drove around in cars without seatbelts for ages, and for some of them it was “completely fine,” but for others… So I don’t think most of us would go around advising people to leave off their seatbelts just because our grandparents never got into a wreck and were thrown through the windshield.

      1. KateM*

        Agreed – it’s just that those whose grandparents did get into wreck and thrown through windshield were never born so they can’t chime in.

        1. Observer*

          LOL! But, yes. So true. This is one of my pet peeves when people complain about how “unnecessary” so many modern safety precautions are.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Kind of like how everyone’s grandpas have stories about lucky escapes during WWII. Of course they do! The unlucky ones didn’t all get to have progeny.

            1. WindmillArms*

              Or how helmet use and serious injuries are correlated. It’s of course not that helmets *cause* injury…it’s that with a helmet, you *survive* the injuries.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      It may have been fine for her, but we never know these days. Everyone has a story about someone they know who was a complete shut in except for groceries and got Covid anyway in 2020.

      1. AD*

        Also, as I know someone who died from a breakthrough infection, this type of cavalier attitude pisses me off.

        For what it’s worth, OP’s workplace situation sounds ideal. They have flexibility based on their preference — and it sounds like work output isn’t impacted. What OP wants is for management to force others to conform to her preference. That would not necessarily be a good management approach and OP would do well do be a bit more humble and introspective.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          I’m so sorry for your loss.

          Just the other day someone in my organization said, very matter-of-factly, that as more people are around we will likely have more outbreaks and I just thought… “Why is that acceptable to people? Don’t they consider that this will mean someone else is likely to contract a breakthrough infection and that this person might not bounce back from it?”

          1. too many too soon*

            My workplace says that mask/vax mandates mean they have no liability if anyone catches Covid, which is ridiculous given the 15000 students & 1000+ staff involved.

        2. allathian*

          Our health authority is basing its calculations of Covid incidence in the future on the premise that everyone who doesn’t get vaccinated will get Covid sooner or later. Tough luck for the immunosuppressed, some of whom may have to self-isolate at home for the foreseeable future, but that’s the basic assumption.

    5. Evonon*

      The bit about coming in pre-vaccine willingly also rubs me the wrong way because I HAD to do that to keep my job. I couldn’t quit in a pandemic but now I 100% cite that is one of my many reasons for leaving in my exit interview even now that our office is fully vaxxed

      1. Krabby*

        Yes! My manager basically did what LW wants to do (forced our whole team to come in 2 days a week despite that not being the internal policy) and I know it’s made us all a lot less certain this is where we want to be long-term.

    6. Cat Tree*

      I was really trying to give OP the benefit of the doubt, but as a person in a high-risk group that made me cringe so hard. That was one of the most ableist comments I’ve heard in a long time.

      1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        As a high-risk person who HAD to be in the office and handling stuff, that comment makes me want to look at them and flatly say, “Good for yuuuuuuu.” Yes, I’m still mad and bitter about it over a year later.

    7. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

      Oh my god, I somehow misread that as “I started coming in AS SOON AS vaccines were available” and was wondering why Alison was taking her to task for it. This makes an already bad letter SO MUCH WORSE.

    8. Observer*

      “I started coming back in well before vaccines were available and it was completely fine” just needs to be highlighted because it’s bad logic.

      That REALLY jumped out at me. What on earth!?

      Honestly, it sounds like all those stereotypes of “old people” wheezing on about “in MY day, I walked to school barefoot in the snow!”

      Which, if that’s how it was, yay for you. But why does that make it reasonable to expect it from anyone else?

      1. Esmeralda*

        Uphill both ways, without a coat.

        I kinda hope OP is expressing these feelings freely at work. So that everyone else has a truer picture of the kind of employee/coworker/manager OP is and can plan accordingly.

        Selfish, short-sighted, and a less than stellar thinker.

    9. iglwif*


      “I did X and suffered no personal consequences” is not the same as “Doing X is totally safe for everyone”!

    1. EPLawyer*

      This. OP, not everyone sees work as the place to have their social needs met. A non insignificant portion of employees are pleasant to work but are there to do their work and then go home to their own activities.

      Please work on developing interests outside of work. That will help with any feelings of isolation and make it less of an issue that people still want to remain remote.

    2. SpecialSpecialist*

      I think this might be the key. OP could be relying too heavily on work for friendship and contact with people.

      My team will be coming back to a hybrid schedule soon from 100% WFH since March 2020. Unfortunately, our organization hasn’t let anybody stay 100% WFH, but they have embraced a hybrid option.

      Everybody has determined their own 3-2 hybrid schedule, so there isn’t a single day of the week where we’re all in the office together, but that’s ok. We’re still planning to have weekly virtual check-ins for everybody, our manager is doing in-person one-on-ones when each team member is scheduled to be in the office, and we’ll have an in-person department meeting at least once a month where we’re all together at least for a few hours.

      I’m sad we can’t stay 100% WFH, but this seems like a good balance.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I also don’t like the idea that the LW wants to force her reports to socialize with her at work, and also misses the company of her manager. Nope. I learned the hard way that I at least can’t be friends with my manager, because that only means that I’ll start thinking of them as a friend and stop respecting them as my manager, and will be unhappy when they need to make a decision (as is their right) that I don’t like or agree with. So I’m not going to be friends with any of my managers in the future, and will look askance at any who want to be more than friendly and professional with me.

      1. CBB*

        Apparently not social enough.

        As an introverted person it’s hard for me to understand, but I know people who would feel lonely spending a workday in a nearly empty office, regardless of how much socializing they could do afterhours.

        1. DataSci*

          I’m introverted (though not as much as I would have thought in Feb 2020), and I’d far rather be at home than alone in an empty office. WFH there are no cues that “there should be other people around, and there aren’t”, unlike an empty office, which just makes it seem like you’re working on a holiday or something.

    3. Canadian Valkyrie*

      This is what I was thinking too. It sounds like a lot of OPs issue is the social isolation and liking the comraderie from working IRL. It’s not something I relate to; I’ve always had really siloed jobs and/or worked in incredibly toxic situations where even if you tried to be friendly with colleagues you liked you’d get shot down by the toxic leadership for daring to socialize even at minimal levels (e.g. chatting with a coworker for a few minutes in the morning abbout their weekend)

    4. BeenThere*

      This so much. I have mentored so many recent grads through this, that they need multiple social outlets that aren’t the office. When the downturns happen they’ll understand.

    5. AY*

      I think some people just don’t like to spend the workday alone. They might have active social and family lives, and they still don’t like to be isolated during the workday.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Right, and those feelings are valid! It’s okay to want to work with other people in person, regardless of how much socialization you get during your non-working hours. The problem is when you feel that your preferences are somehow more important than anyone else’s.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, and it might also be the time to look for a different company culture that values butts-in-seats and socialization more than her current employer does. There are plenty of such companies out there.

          1. A*

            Exactly, there are PLENTY of companies unwilling to bend on a ‘butts in seats’ attitude – OP needs to seek those environments out. Not try and push their preferences in an environment that actually has made efforts to meet both sides halfway. I might have a different opinion if OP’s employer was going fully remote – but allowing their employees to WFH two days a week is a really basic compromise and one that still favors the ‘butts in seats’ preference. I would have expected OP to be happy with that.

    6. Well...*

      Idk as an extrovert myself, working with people around is just plain easier than working alone. That’s not about my social needs not being met, that’s just how my energy works (as introverts are quick to point out, having time alone for them helps their productivity as well).

      Also this has been a rough two years for socializing. I moved to a new country and was separated physically from all my family and friends for months, WFH during a lockdown. I couldn’t just go out and meet new people to get my social needs met. I spent Christmas and thanksgiving on zoom. Cut the extroverts some slack.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, your timing wasn’t probably the best for you. That said, plenty of introverts prefer working in an office to WFH, especially if they live in a small apartment with a roommate or two, or they’re in an unhappy relationship and see going to the office as an escape from the misery (there the solution is obviously to split up, but that’s often easier said than done).

        I’m an introvert, and I get most of my social needs met with my family members. I’m a chatty introvert, though, and most people who meet me for the first time wouldn’t flag me as an introvert. I can fake extroversion quite well, I’m fine with being the life and soul of the party and the center of attention, and I never hesitate to speak up in meetings, not even huge town hall ones, but it drains my energy and when I’m peopled out, I need to be alone to recharge. Some energy drain is beneficial, but because being with other people is a cost to introverts, the calculation of benefits is different than for extroverts, who gain energy from socializing with other people. Doesn’t mean we can’t or don’t want to do it, but we have to count the cost.

        A friend of mine’s more introverted than I am, and she’s very happy to be back in the office. She’s single, and at the height of the pandemic, she used to go for days, sometimes weeks, without speaking to anyone. After she told me this, I made a point of calling her about once a week, even though we usually communicate mostly by text. She has the sort of job that involves a lot of intense focus on her own and almost no collaboration with her coworkers, but she found that being in the same space with a few other people, and the chats, even masked and keeping their distance, forced her to socialize with other people at least minimally, which she realized was a lot better for her mental health than complete isolation. Most introverts need some social contact, even if some of us have to be forced into it, because we don’t necessarily seek it out if left to our own devices.

        1. Well...*

          Which I would say only adds to the argument that we should be cutting people who want to go back to work and see people some slack. In the best of times social needs can be met elsewhere but these are not the best of times.

        2. Well...*

          Also re: moving to a new country actually wasn’t bad timing. In my field jobs last 2-3 years at my career stage and it’s very international. Many of my colleagues had the same unfortunate experience at some point in 2020/2021.

      2. A*

        I don’t think this really hinges on extrovert vs. introvert. I’m an extrovert and I would prefer to work remotely indefinitely (and I live alone, no kids etc.).

        Extrovert/Introvert refers to how people ‘recharge’, not a constant requirement.

        1. Well...*

          Yes but at some point people need to recharge, no? I’m not saying it’s a constant requirement, I’m saying work is less draining when people are nearby and I can take breaks to chit chat. I also get energized by in-person meetings and have a burst of productivity after, which just doesn’t happen on Zoom.

          My point is people might want to have others around at work for reasons beyond social needs.

  5. I forgot the name I usually use*

    You don’t get to decide where other people’s comfort levels should be in a pandemic.

    1. Necronomnomnomicon*

      Pandemic aside, LW doesn’t get to decide where other people’s comfort levels should be, period.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Darned right.

      My office announced that a higher-up wants to throw a large in person food party for our office. Obviously would have to be indoors at this time too. They asked how we felt about that. Now I’m the riskiest person in the office these days (I don’t travel or go on planes, but I’m doing everything else–also I’m forced to come back in no matter what) so I definitely couldn’t say no, but I asked if people who weren’t comfortable would have the option not to attend and the answer was no, everyone has to come together in person. I thought, “That’s really shitty for my coworkers with MS” (we have two) “and anyone else who still doesn’t want to go out.” Nobody else in my meeting said anything at all, I got the feeling that it probably wasn’t okay to want to nope out of the experience.

      Seriously, if anyone’s afraid, PLEASE BE KIND ABOUT IT. Don’t force them back because that’s what YOU want. Don’t force them ALL back, specifically. Some people may be fine, some may not, some may have health issues. It doesn’t even sound like they have to be in person to do the job here.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        You are saying a mouthful right here! My job is still hybrid, but I am dreading when we are more in-person because I know I am going to be confronted with (vaccinated and well-meaning) coworkers wanting to take masks off, or the like. Someone I know, when I told them at the height of Delta I wasn’t sure about outdoor dining, sent me an article that amounted to basically “you can relax, you won’t get a breakthrough infection.” I just want to be safe and avoid infection, if I can. I am sick of other people deciding that doesn’t matter.

      2. Pizzelle*

        This is so weird. Throwing a party sounds like it’s meant to boost morale or recognize the team for excellent work. Making it mandatory when there’s a huge probability some may be uncomfortable totally defeats the purpose.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Whoever made this decision is a sociopath. My theory about the (quasi-)mandatory office party is that it is all about the boss playing the part of the Benevolent Patron. This is why making sure I have my thirty seconds chat with him is the most important part of the event, before I sneak out the back and go home. This looks to me the same, but with the added thrill of a potentially fatal communicable disease thrown into the mix.

        Were I an the position of having to go, I would modify my usual office party routine. Ordinarily I am happy to partake of the free food, but here this would require unmasking. I would eat a full meal before going, show up, have my thirty seconds with the boss, and then sneak out the back and go home like normal.

      4. Ismonie*

        You could say you don’t want to go because you go out more and have more contact with people than your remote colleagues and you don’t want to expose them.

      5. generic_username*

        I have a fairly high risk tolerance for this pandemic (I’ve flown multiple times, have been to 5 wedding this year, etc…), but no way would I want to do a required indoor work party that required eating near each other. NOPE.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Who said anything about eating. Just because it is a “food party” doesn’t mean I have to eat. That is why I would eat a full meal ahead of time, so as not to be tempted to unmask. Avoiding proximity to other people is likely tougher, depending on the space, but I would do my best.

            1. Mannequin*

              I’m an adult who has chosen not to risk my fragile health to assuage someone else’s social ego.

      6. Indy Dem*

        My great-grandboss also wanted to have a party with food to thank us for our contributions. She wanted to, but realizes she couldn’t. So she is letting us expense a dinner (up to $100) on the company. I really love the place I work at. Oh, and yes we’ve been full WFH since March 2020 and when the office opens up, almost all employees will have the option to have a hybrid work schedule.

      7. ThirstonHurston*

        My old job consistently threw parties for the past year. Every Friday, they bought beer and people stayed back. During the pandemic. When I started, my city was still in lockdown and the government said that anyone that could work remotely, should.

        The office got more bold and threw a party for Gay Pride. 4 people caught Covid and the government shut the office down completely, with only one person allowed in because he could not do his job remotely.

        Still can’t believe it took so long for the outbreak to finally occur. But at least it made the company realize how freaking stupid it is to party every Friday in the middle of a pandemic

    3. Nikki*

      It’s like some people have forgotten that the pandemic is still happening!

      The vaccination rate in our city is 80%, but drive out 30-60 minutes and it drops to 30%.

      I’m high-risk with high-risk family members. Catching COVID could mean permanent disability for me. It could mean death for my baby nephew. I spend SO much time and energy trying to keep us safe. Figuring out holiday plans has been a nightmare. I’m tired of people acting like those who socially distance (including WFH) are overreacting.

      We all hoped that we could go back to “normal” once the vaccine came out. But until enough people get vaccinated so that we achieve herd immunity / reduced spread, a lot of us are still in serious danger!

      1. Fran Fine*

        Thank you. I feel like this and Alison’s simple response to OP (“The pandemic isn’t over.”) should be posted on billboards all over the country and blasted all over every channel and radio station.

        People are still getting sick and dying. OP, and others like her, need to get a grip and deal with reality.

    1. Sam*

      Honestly, I want to say this with sincerity. There are lots of workplaces committed to bringing employees back, who celebrate the benefits of in-person work, who prioritize physical presence in the office. And a lot of them are desperate for employees right now, because there’s a global pandemic going on and a lot more people are looking for flexibility. If this is a workplace value that’s really important to you, find a company that shares this value! You should be well-equipped to fit in, negotiate a good salary, and then focus your time and energy on your work rather than what your employees/colleagues are up to at home.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is sincerely good advice. If in-person work is vital to OP, she should look for a company that shares that belief–because the CEO of this one has indicated that he doesn’t.

        The exact same advice we would give if someone wanted to continue to be remote and the CEO had indicated that wasn’t happening.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I echo this whole heartedly. I changed jobs last year, and one of the big reasons was because my preferences for being in the office was out of step with the majority of the team. And to be frank, my preferences weren’t so much about the work but about my own (un)happiness. I joined a company that has a real business reason to be in person, with a team that strongly preferred to be in person, and I am so much happier.

  6. Sans Serif*

    Agree with Allison 100%. Wanting to stay at home could be a pandemic thing (lack of childcare, worry about kids who aren’t vaccinated) or it could simply be that it’s a better way to work – no commute, no fancy clothing, no interruptions. If you start trying to force your reports to come in, you will likely lose them to another department or another company altogether. Do you think they’re going to pay for daycare and work clothes when their colleagues in other depts don’t have to?

  7. AnonEMoose*

    I would not enjoy having OP for a boss. I know this because my office is forcing me to come in two days a week when there is NO work related reason for me to do so, and I have clearly expressed that I do not feel safe taking public transit yet, which was my method of commuting pre-pandemic. So either I take the risk or I shell out for an Uber. I resent the heck out of this and am working on my resume – I have other frustrations, but this is my “last straw.”

    It’s not all about you and what you want. OP. The other employees are real people, with real lives, real concerns, and as Alison so wisely said, what you are expressing sounds like personal preference, not actual work related reasons. Trying to force people to come back if there aren’t rock solid work reasons for doing so is likely to result in losing people you would rather not lose.

    1. Anonym*

      Same same same. It has drastically changed my opinion of my company’s leadership, which I was really positive about, both pre pandemic and during the first year – they handled that part really well.

      COVID exposure is cumulative, therefore the risk is cumulative. I’m being religious about not coming in when I have a symptom of anything, avoiding peak public transit times if at all possible and about staying remote in the weeks before visiting a high risk relative. (I have a certain amount of social capital to apply to this and am spending it liberally right now. Boss is annoyed but won’t fire me over it.)

    2. Canadian Valkyrie*

      Yes! I am working on a graduate degree right now where the schools leadership seems hell bent on making us come back despite the fact that the majority of students (upwards of 90% in my program!) don’t want to come back. It’s baffling because they spent all this time setting up a system to allow for a hybrid model (students could choose to be in person or virtual for the same class!) and its like… ok, why would you spend all that effort and money (because you’d have had to fish out money for IT to do this!) only to scrap it immediately, especially when students are repeatedly saying “I don’t want to come back, I’m actually rocking this whole virtual thing, please don’t do this simply because you big people think it’s the way it should be!”

      1. TrackingCookieMonster*

        There’s probably a few colleges out there speeding up in-person classes because they’re either facing political pressure if they’re partially dependent on tax funding or have been threatened with lawsuits to recover a portion of tuition costs.

    3. Observer*

      I would not enjoy having OP for a boss.

      That was my first thought.

      Trying to force people to come back if there aren’t rock solid work reasons for doing so is likely to result in losing people you would rather not lose.

      Yep. Even if they don’t “prioritize” their careers the way the OP expects them to. Not that finding another job would mean that they don’t prioritize their career. Just that even if someone actually doesn’t necessarily prioritize their career that much, they can be quite valuable to an employer.

  8. Czhorat*

    I work in NYC too. Just a railroad ticket to and from Manhattan is over $4000 per year. That’s a significant pay cut for a trip to the office.

    It’s also a three hour round trip, door-to-door for me. Do I miss being around coworkers? Wandering about the city? Juggling in the park at lunchtime? You bet. But the commute costs significant time and money.

    If there were business reasons for it I’d do it in a heartbeat. As things stand? I get to see my kids more. See my wife more. Have a bit more time for hobbies, and relaxation. And, there’s not much in my job that would be any different if I were there in the office. In fact, working remotely has allowed us to hire team members from all around the country and have us work together more or less seamlessly.

    So yeah, I see your point but, as you said about your boss’s childcare issues, there are bigger personal reasons people want to keep working from home.

    1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      MNR monthly card fees are HIGHWAY ROBBERY.

      Cannot speak to NJ transit as I moved out of NJ before becoming a regular commuter, but I am assuming the same is true there.

      1. Czhorat*

        I’m the other way, on Long Island. LIRR isn’t cheap, by a long way.

        The monthly ticket is a bargain – it’s close to $40 for a peak round trip.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Except when the LIRR shuts down for things like excess sunshine or a light rain and you’re stuck in Jamaica lol

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This perspective is SO valuable! That’s incredibly expensive, particularly in hours. OP can’t seem to fathom anyone else’s perspectives or lifestyles.

    3. They Called Me....Skeletor*

      Do you really juggle in the park at lunchtime? I sure hope you say yes because that is the most wonderful thing I’ve heard in the past couple of days!

      1. Czhorat*

        Not as much anymore, because I work remotely.

        There are jugglers in NYC’s Bryant Park every weekday at noon, and twice in the evening. In the beforetimes I was there every day, and still drop by on rare in the office days.

        If you don’t know how to, we’ll even teach you. It’s an absolutely delightful midday break.

        1. HR Exec Popping In*

          I so miss that! I used to work near there and loved going to the park and just people watch on a beautiful day.

      1. Czhorat*

        Well.. it’s a tradeoff.

        For the cost of the commute we get a house with more space, a yard, and really good public schools with very well-paid teaching staff. It’s not the right choice for everyone, but you need to balance.

        WFH has been a godsend in mitigating the bad parts.

        1. too many too soon*

          My commute lets me work in a small city and live on a farm. I’d want to give up if all I had was a tiny box shoved into other boxes, surrounded by people. Work is already too many people in tiny boxes.

        2. Justin*

          Well, now, I will go on a 50 page rant about the very concept of “good schools” and where they tend to be located and who is in them, since I’m an education researcher outside of work.

          But yes, we all have to make our tradeoffs.

      2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        It really depends on where you are. I live in a suburb of my state’s capitol city (truth time: we have a much smaller population than Dallas, Manhanttan, LA, Chicago, etc. but a huge geographic area). Commute times for my area are 30 minutes to an hour and a half, two hours if you live on the outskirts of the metro area for the home drive.

    4. it's just the frame of mind*

      But the opportunity cost! If you spend that $4000 to commute to the office, and then spend your lunch break juggling in the park, you may be able to make the $4000 back *and more*!!! :D

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      Much cheaper monthly ticket for me in Chicago (burbs to downtown) but with a similar round-trip time (2.5 hours pre-pandemic, currently would be 3.5+ except I’m WFH). There are times I deeply miss being in that workplace, miss being able to pop my head around a corner and ask a coworker something, miss the workplace gym, miss going out to wonderful places in Chicago after work sometimes, but damn, WFH is really freaking convenient.

    6. GNG*

      Yup came here to say the same about the time and financial costs of commuting to the office in NYC. Not to mention the surge in crimes in the subway poses another risk to take into consideration, on top of COVID.

    7. HigherEdAdminista*

      I’m also in total agreement with this. I go into the office when necessary and I’m fine with that. Going in every day just to do the same thing I am doing at home doesn’t make much sense to me.

      Since not having to commute daily, I am getting more and better sleep, exercising more consistently than I have in forever, and enjoying myself a bit more. I do all that in the time that I usually spent dealing with the MTA and I’m so sad at the thought of it going away, because my life has been way better because of it.

    8. Not A Girl Boss*

      I feel like a big factor of this letter in particular is that working in NYC is often a broader lifestyle choice.

      I’m a Millennial who grew up in Connecticut. A lot of my friends dreamed of living in NYC someday, and were absolutely willing to put up with the complicated commute, the tiny apartments, etc etc etc to make that dream come true.
      But going to work in a desolate skyscraper so they could sit on Teams meetings with coworkers before returning to their cramped apartment with no social plans in sight… was not a part of that dream.

      Of course, as my friends aged, the appeal started to wear off for many of them. They started families and moved back to Connecticut, where commuting was awful and expensive. They spent so much time commuting that none of the social offerings in NYC appealed to them anymore. Basically, the cons started to outweigh the pros. Many of them ended up looking for work more local to them, or looking for remote work. Not very many of them were successful.
      But then, COVID happened! And it was like a magical solution to their problems! Keep the NYC prestige and salary but work from home mostly! Yay!

      So I guess what I’m wondering is if this LW is having a ‘the cake is a lie’ moment. For a lot of people, the ability to remote work has been such a blessing. But for others, its a direct assault on the lifestyle they imagined for themselves.
      I’m not saying its OK to make other people miserable so you can live out a childhood dream, but I can appreciate that it stinks for LW that this is how things worked out.

        1. Stop whining*

          Our NYC office has a lot of people who used public transit in the before-times and don’t own vehicles. They won’t force anyone to take public transportation in a pandemic, so coming in remains voluntary.

    9. iglwif*

      That commute sounds HORRIFYING. $4K a year and three hours a day just to get to and from the office?!

      I’ve been a remote worker since 2017, and I love it. I loved it even when my “desk” was the kitchen table, and I love it even more now that my kid is mostly away at university and I therefore have an office with windows.

      And my commute at my previous non-remote job was a half-hour-each-way bus ride at a cost of about $1500 a year. If going back to the office meant a three-hour round trip and $4k a year in transit costs, I’d be looking hard for a new job.

      1. Czhorat*

        Well.. the good things were:

        a) I get to hang around the city during breaks.
        b) most of the commute is by rail, which allows time to read, nap, write, etc.

        Uh.. .I guess that’s it. But that’s life in the big city; the kinds of job I do are much better represented in Manhattan than they are out here in the ‘burbs, and the closer you get to the city the more expensive housing is.

        The move to WFH has been a godsend.

      2. Ismonie*

        If you do the math on driving to work, at 50 cents a mile gas plus wear and tear, you spend that much money driving to work, or more, if you put 8,000 miles a year on your car.

    10. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Grand memories of when I worked in London. £7500 a year train ticket and 5 hours a day commute…

    11. AGirlFromIpanema*

      Spot on. Fellow MNR commuter, mine’s closer to $6k! Your second and third paragraphs are *exactly* how I feel. I sure do miss spending my days in NYC sometimes. But the tradeoff no longer works for me. Not in this new world we’ve forged.

  9. Jean*

    You sound exactly like my grandboss, so I’ll say to you what I wish I had standing to say to her. Your personal feelings aren’t enough justification to force people to return to the office on what you consider to be an “optimal” schedule, full stop. You must frame your thinking on these types of issues around how it affects the business, not how it makes you feel.

  10. old curmudgeon*

    There was a piece on NPR a month or so ago where they interviewed an employee who was required to work in-person two days a week and could work remote three days a week (which is the same schedule I am required to maintain). The interviewee made a comment that just perfectly captured my biggest objection to in-person work.

    The statement was something like “when we’re in-person at the office, people spend the whole day coffee-shopping, wandering around to chat with each other, catching up on things, and generally wasting time.”

    Bingo! That is precisely why I was more productive during fifteen months of lockdown than I ever had been in my entire life (and I’ve been in the workforce for 45 years at this point). It sounds to me as though the letter-writer here prefers a more socially focused workplace where they can “coffee-shop,” probably far more than some of their colleagues do.

    If dealing with colleagues who work mostly remote just isn’t working for a person, they may wind up gaining more satisfaction at work by finding an employer that emphasizes in-person work more highly. If there is anything good that has come out of the past year and a half, it is the fact that many of us are finally (after nearly a half a century of frustration in my case!) figuring out what our optimum work experience really is, and at least some employers are starting to recognize that, altering work expectations to encompass more than just the extroverts of the world.

    1. rl09*

      >It sounds to me as though the letter-writer here prefers a more socially focused workplace where they can “coffee-shop,” probably far more than some of their colleagues do.

      This reminds me of a comment I read a while back on Corporette. Basically they pointed out all the recent articles about how introverts were “happier” during the lockdowns and that they don’t want to return to the office, and the comment said something to the effect of “How do I go back to working with all of these people who secretly hated me this whole time?!” (which I mean…wow…we don’t have time to unpack all of that)

      I think the world (prior to 2020) was always kind of set-up with extroverts as the default, and they really thrived with all of the built-in socializing that happens in the office. And now that some people are preferring to WFH even in cases when it is no longer required, some extroverts are taking it as a personal attack, when really it’s not actually about them at all.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        That is so wise! I never even considered it from that angle. I have even seen that with a couple of friends who seem mad when I don’t want to do something risky and that I am okay staying home.

        I didn’t fully realize the impact social exhaustion was having on my life until it wasn’t happening anymore. I was spending all my energy just getting through the day, and didn’t have any space left for myself.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Definitely agree about the pre-2020 world being set up by and for extroverts. All those team-building events were the corporate version of high school pep rallies, which also were mandatory and dreadful.

        1. Mannequin*

          UUUGGGGHHH….before I learned to sneak off to the library, I’d sneak off to the far corner of the top row of bleachers & read or write notes to my friends. The only benefit I ever got from them was if one happened to occur during a class I found boring or didn’t like.

      3. Liz T*

        I’m an extrovert and I really want the pandemic to be truly over…so I can hang out with my FRIENDS. My FAMILY. I miss theatre and cocktail bars and live music. I do not miss commuting to the office for no earthly reason.

        1. allathian*

          I’m an introvert, if a chatty one, and I miss feeling safe going to the movies, going to bars and restaurants and enjoy live music, too. Socializing carries a cost for me. I’m much more willing to pay that cost for my friends and extended family, than for my coworkers. That doesn’t mean that I hate them or never want to see them, just that I prefer to have some control over how often I see them and how much time I spend with them.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Me too. Going into the office is exhausting for me as an introvert and as someone with a hidden autoimmune disease. I love that my energy is better and I can save up for events with the people I choose to be around, not the ones who just happen to also work at X.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “coffee-shopping, wandering around to chat with each other, catching up on things, and generally wasting time”

      Also known as “spontaneously collaborating.”

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Really, the only thing I *need* to do in person is the mail. I’m told I have to be there to babysit staff, which boils down to “So-and-so won’t listen to me, he wants to talk to a manager.” “I’m not a manager.” “But you’re the only adult here.”

    4. SpookyScarySkeleton*

      I’m glad that your lockdown was more productive than office work was for you. Mine was absolute torture. I live in an area with slower internet as the only option and a lot of household distractions even when I locked myself in a room for the day. It started taking me 12 hours to reach 8 billable. Being forced to focus deeply while being constantly interrupted is my personal definition of misery.

      I’ve never been someone who worked well at home, even in school/college/grad school. I prefer keeping work at work and home at home. The absolute second I was allowed back in the office, I took it. Even with a 45 minute commute and expensive parking, extensive COVID protocols including perma-masking if you weren’t drinking water, etc. I can actually get my work done more effectively and my productivity has soared. I’m deeply introverted and don’t socialize at work; it just helps me focus to have work tasks as my only focus.

      Just an alternate perspective to dogpiling on the letter-writer.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I think the issue is, no one is saying OP is in the wrong for wanting to be back in the office. I prefer working at home and never want to go back. But I understand that some people work better in the office. That said, OP is basically trying to force everyone to follow the schedule they prefer, merely because they prefer it. I see it along the lines of, if I think bacon and eggs are the perfect breakfast to have every day, it’s not my place to try to force that on someone who would rather eat oatmeal. As long as we’re both getting proper nutrition, we should each be allowed to eat what we want. The CEO is ok with people doing what they want. OP’s boss is ok with that. OP was not present any concrete reasons for why their reports (and everyone else in the office) needs to come in more. So it is understandable that people are pushing back. OP is welcome to go in as many days as they want, but shouldn’t be trying to force others in as well.

        Also, to be fair, OP wasa bit judgy/sanctimonious and that probably is putting people off. Saying they went in before vaccines and whatnot. Ok, well that was a personal choice but doesn’t make OP a better employee than someone who stayed home working.

        1. SpookyScarySkeleton*

          I’m replying to Old Curmudgeon, who was basically saying that people who want back in the office want to do so so they can “coffee-shop” – assuming the OP wants people in the office so they can not work and still get paid. That’s a pretty obnoxious stretch.

          I agree that the OP is pretty sanctimonious and definitely in the wrong but people who want in the office aren’t doing it out of work-avoidance.

      2. biobotb*

        But the LW doesn’t complain about people being less productive from home, so I’m not sure how your struggles are germane to their complaints. The LW’s coworkers are not stopping anyone like you and the LW, who would prefer to work from the office, from going to the office — they just aren’t joining them there. Unless your coworkers are trying to insist that you continue working from home, I just don’t see the connection.

      3. Stop whining*

        The dog piling is not about the validity of the letter-writer’s preference to work in the office; it’s about the letter writer’s inability or unwillingness to recognize that everyone else’s preference to work from home is equally valid. The problem is LW judging those who choose to work from home and wanting to force everyone else into the office to satisfy LW’s desire for workplace social interactions, despite upper management allowing the choice, which implies there is no business need for employees to be in the office.

      4. allathian*

        Thank you. I’m a bit tired of the “introverts want to WFH, extroverts want to work at the office” because it’s far too simplistic, as your post shows. You’re also lucky in that your office provides space for you to focus, in some office environments being constantly interrupted is something you just can’t avoid. Or maybe you can handle interruptions at the office better because they’re mostly work related?

        1. SpookyScarySkeleton*

          I’m low enough on the ladder that people don’t interrupt me for anything pressing, and most of our team is still remote. They’ll contact me through email/IM no matter where I’m sitting.

          It’s more the removal of non-work distractions so I can actually get into flow and knock out tasks instead of, say, getting off task for ten minutes here, ten minutes there, every time I need to get water/let the dog outside/eat something.

  11. kt*

    Part of what’s going on is people’s desire for consistency. I haven’t been going in much; the commute is annoying but whatever, but the other reason is that I have offspring in daycare/school, my spouse is a medical professional and is in work every day, and juggling quarantine from COVID exposures at work and at daycare is just annoying. I can just be home every day and have a consistent schedule, or I can try to do that in-office schedule but have to deal with the COVID cases at work (a couple recently), the exposures at daycare/school, the coworker with the kid who brought COVID home from school who wants everyone to be careful just in case, etc etc etc. For the OP who is a single young-ish person who is vaccinated living with one other young-ish vaccinated person, I totally understand the risk calculation — that’s cool. But I am enmeshed in a web of people who cannot be vaccinated at this time (younger kids) and other people who must go in person to work every day. It’s just easier to not have to re-plan my week every time someone in this web has an exposure and instead only have to deal with the exposures and schedule changes brought by my own offspring.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I’m not in this situation now, but if this pandemic had rolled around a few years ago this would have been my situation. OP needs to put herself in other people’s shoes, for real. Her comments about her boss, just so flippantly gliding past that these woman is dealing with a baby *who cannot be vaccinated against COVID* not to mention the 112 childcare issues that existed *before* the pandemic and are so much worse now… Grow up OP. This is not about you. At all.

  12. Hen*

    I work from home because it’s better for my health, Covid aside. Mental health wise, I can get enough sleep without worrying about getting ready in the morning, take a nap if I’m sleepy, keep up on chores. Physically, I eat healthier, can jump on my treadmill, can sit in a place that’s comfortable. These aren’t “excuses” they’re preferences. And they don’t match yours, and you have to be ok with that, or you shouldn’t be managing.

    1. AdequateAdmin*

      I totally agree! My boss allowed me to WFH after some personal issues and I absolutely love it. Right when I started WFH my chronic issues flared back up and it was so nice to be able to lay down, and help alleviate my symptoms, while working. And when I started a new medication it gave me the dignity of dealing with side effects privately with the tools I needed to do so without having to constantly duck out of work or schlep a ton of crap to the office.

    2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      So true. I am looking forward to some aspects of the office, but having to sacrifice 3 hours a day to commuting and not being able to do a load of dishes while I’m waiting for lunch to heat, etc, is a big downside! At home I average 8 hours sleep, before COVID I averaged 6.5 or so. It makes a big difference.

    3. n.m.*

      True. The way people always used to come into the office sick, I would blow through my sick days catching colds from coworkers. Not an issue when I work from home!

    4. TQB*

      This is a wonderful point, and in truth, goes both ways.

      I was a miserable, lonely, stressed, unproductive person at home. For 18 months I never felt like I was ever “off.” I resented my kids and spouse for constantly interfering with work, and work for ruining my life with them. I never felt like i could sleep in, or exercise, or often even eat. I hit full burn out stage by early fall 2020 and it just got worse from there. I am grateful for the patience of my employer for my lackluster performance, and to my family for their patience, but the only thing that “cured” any of this was that my office is partially open and my kids have managed to remain in FT care since June. Thus, I am also grateful for the people in my office who have chosen NOT to come in, as we have capacity limits. Right now, anyone who wants to be here can be here, safely (masked and vaxxed).

      There’s a more sympathetic version of this letter that goes “I am happy back in the office and I miss my co-workers, I wish they’d all come back. Is there anything I can do to make them feel safe and actually want to be here?” This is the brave new world. The folks at home have seen and demonstrated that they don’t need to be present. If you’re the boss and you can just demand everyone return, great for you. I think that’s shortsighted, but that’s the call you get to make. If you aren’t the boss, you’re working within whatever framework the boss has set out – and it sounds like OP’s bosses are smart enough to know that now is not the time to make sweeping demands of employees. If you want them back, how can you make them WANT to come back, and why does it matter so much to you? Many of us have learned a lot about ourselves and what we want to give to and get from work during this. No, nothing is ever going to go back to “normal” but the invitation is there for it to be better.

    5. Katefish*

      WFH was a godsend this year in early pregnancy when I was extremely nauseous. I was able to work regular hours without announcing my pregnancy, but often was completely flat on the bed while typing. If I’d been pre-pandemic trying to do elaborate, big city commutes to in person office and court? Forget it – I’d probably have to take FMLA.

    6. Brett*

      It’s been the opposite for me. I slept way better because I knew exactly what hour I had to wake up every day to be on time to work on time. Now, “on time” varies radically from day to day. It might be 9am, it might be 5am. My work day might end anywhere from 5pm to 8pm, so I never know if I will be able to get errands and workouts in before bed or if I am going to end up needing to be up late, only to find out at 10pm that I have a meeting at 6am.

      This inconsistency is purely a consequence of work from home. It didn’t exit before it, and it has disappeared for teams in our organization who have returned to office. I think for the vast majority of workplaces and roles, your situation might be the norm. But there are definitely roles and workplaces (particularly those with an international presence) where my situation predominates.

  13. ArsenioBillingham*

    Allison’s advice is good but stops short of saying: if you try to mandate your team coming back 1) in defiance of the CEO’s “everyone do whatever they need” guidance and 2) without legitimate, work-based reasons for why they should be in the office in person, you are going to have some VERY disgruntled direct reports. Ask me how I know!

    1. CW*

      I would be disgruntled as well. And I will ask since I feel strongly about this: how do you know? My guess is that you were forced into the office once before, but I may be wrong.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’d actually be more surprised if her subordinates don’t just cite the CEO’s sanity and ignore her.

      2. ArsenioBillingham*

        I work in student affairs at a community college. The student affairs team was told we must be back at work in-person starting in the midsummer. We had been entirely remote since March 2020, but now we must be physically in the office no less than 80% of the time–regardless of what our specific role is. Meanwhile, other areas of the College, including faculty (since only about 15% of our course offerings are happening con-campus/face-to-face), are not being held to the same expectation.

        My colleagues and I are scratching our heads as to why 4 days per week is the magic solution if you work in student affairs, no matter what your position or role or work function is. People are…less than thrilled.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Your point about the CEO’s guidance raises another issue: OP fails to realize that she is contradicting her bosses. OP is specifically upset that the boss is “unsupportive” of OP. Sorry, that’s not true. She is very supportive—of the CEO’s policy. That’s her job. OP is the one trying to subvert a very clear statement from the top.

      OP, for your own career safety, don’t push this. Making your staff come in to the office during a pandemic for no good business reason in violation of clear corporate policy is likely to end very badly for you.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Oh, and your statement that “she isn’t willing to give any direction to our larger team, which doesn’t allow me to set any expectations of my own reports”? She doesn’t need to give you direction. The CEO already gave the entire company direction; direction that you don’t like. OP, you are literally asking your boss to be insubordinate to the CEO in order to enable you to be insubordinate to the CEO.

      2. Spero*

        Agree on this. I’m confused about how the supervisor’s work location has an impact on her ability to give clear direction? Does she only agree to 1:1s if they are in office together and is refusing to do video/phone 1:1s? What is the difference for OP in asking for guidance to someone sitting next to her vs remotely? If she has needs that aren’t being met by supervisor, she needs to ask for a 1:1 or send a clarifying email. She can’t force her to show up in person so she can radar-beam her own thoughts into the supervisor’s head.

  14. Another Michael*

    Okay, so I’m demographically nearly identical to the letter-writer, and I also love being able to come into the office. I’ll admit that it’s a little baffling to me that other people don’t share this view (can I be the only person in the world who loves getting dressed and walking down the street like the main character in the title sequence of a movie??), BUT I also understand there are a lot of reasons one wouldn’t share this perspective. Something that has been helpful for me in conceptualizing this is to focus on all of the positives I get from being able to work in the office and not worrying about how other people fit into the equation and I’d encourage LW to do the same.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Yes to getting dressed and walking/driving like the main character, with the NPR interview about my new book/work of art playing in the background.

      I could do my job on 1 day a week in the office, WFH the rest of the time. But I genuinely like my work clothes and short commute and conversations with my boss. I suspect that “short commute” is a key factor. It’s eight minutes door to door when I drive; or about 30 minutes on a single line if I take the bus.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I actually started enjoying my commute in the fall of last year because there was no other traffic. I was happy to get back to the routine of things, even if meant taking a few risks (luckily, being socially-distant in my office was a piece of cake with only 3 people around). My commute went from 35-45 minutes to 15 minutes tops!

        Definitely not for everyone, though. My situation was much easier on me than most folks.

      2. une autre Cassandra*

        Yeah, COVID aside I personally prefer to do my current job in-office for a number of reasons even though I can do it pretty easily from home. However, I think I’d swing way back toward preferring WFH if my commute wasn’t relatively brief and not terribly stressful. Double or triple my commute and the things I like about being in the office would suddenly seem a LOT less compelling.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Before I left my previous job I was mentoring someone demographically similar to the letter writer. He asked me if I was concerned with establishing relationships in my new job since we are going to be 100% teleworking until next spring and 90% teleworking after that, with a geographically distributed team so in-office meetings aren’t going to happen anyway.

      I reminded him that since he started shortly after lockdown, we’d developed a solid mentoring relationship despite never having met in person, and he’d had to do so himself with every other person he worked with for about a year before finally going back to the office part time two months ago. Personally I feel that in the past 18 months I established better working relationships across all the teams I was part of because we met frequently, which was only possible online.

      Culture is what you create, it’s not a physical space. If that were true, I’d never have any hope of being part of a work culture when my teammates (then and in this new job) are spread across the country.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am baffled with the idea that relationships can only be in person. I’m an Old, and even before the internet there were people with whom I had meaningful relationships without ever having met in person. This will only get easier as society continues to adapt. It is the water my kids swim in.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I hear you. I had pen-pals as a teen, and a couple I still exchange Christmas cards and the occasional email with, and I’m almost 50. I’m not on social media, but if I were, I’ve no doubt they’d be my friends online, too.

      2. alienor*

        The insistence on being in person seems strange to me because I’ve had so many bosses and teammates who were thousands of miles away, many of whom I never met in real life, and we got along and worked together just fine. But the same company where I had those relationships also insisted on having everyone return to their local office earlier this year, and that’s why I don’t work there anymore.

      3. A*

        “Culture is what you create, it’s not a physical space. If that were true, I’d never have any hope of being part of a work culture when my teammates (then and in this new job) are spread across the country.”

        100% this! Everyone has their preferences, but the idea that networking/collaboration/rapport building etc. is inherently better in person, or needs to be in person, is bogus. I’ve been in a global position for the better part of the last decade, and I feel just as connected/close to my colleagues I’ve only ever known virtually as I do those I’ve worked in office with. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it really does come down to preferences.

        I’m also a bit shocked given that I’m the same age as OP and by the time I was in college this was already incorporated into curriculums. Do people really think that those of us working with stakeholders that aren’t on site have been spending our whole careers without networking etc? It just blows my mind.

      1. iliketoknit*

        OMG yes. The BEST part of WFH has been not having to get dressed. B/c work clothes are uncomfortable and expensive and high maintenance.

        Also walking down the streets in my town looks nothing like any movie I’ve ever seen, but obviously ymmv.

      2. allathian*

        I don’t mind getting dressed, but I hate shopping for clothes. I have a pair of almost new jeans and a couple of nicer tops to wear to the office that I’ve intentionally not worn at all during the pandemic. I want to see how far I can stretch my “do not buy any new (to me) clothes” campaign, currently at 20 months and counting. If I only go in once a week or less, I can continue to wear the same clothes every time.

    3. James*

      I enjoy it as well. I also find value in having people who work together interact in a casual way, a way that technology simply cannot replicate. You can’t schedule those “Oh, hey, since we ran into each other” discussions. And there’s real psychological value of having a separation between “work” and “home”. It’s really, really, REALLY easy for one to bleed into the other when work is home. I’ve seen a number of people try WFH and give up because of this issue. Then there’s the issue of visibility and career advancement–it’s much harder to build relationships with mentors or to network with colleagues from home than it is in the office. And how one dresses isn’t irrelevant to how one works. I don’t believe we all need to be in formal outfits, but having a work uniform of some sort helps you get into “work” mode.

      My biggest issue with this letter is that the LW’s higher-ups have issued a different policy. As a manager part of my job is to communicate company policy, regardless of my feelings on the matter. If I disagree I can discuss it with my superiors; what I can’t do is make people do things my way in contradiction of company policy.

      1. Me me me*

        Having a work uniform is your preference, it’s not a universal truth that it helps people get into work mode. I am much more likely to get into a good work flow if I plop down on the couch in sweatpants to answer a quick email before getting ready (which then turns into a few hours of productive time) than if I have a structured work day that includes “getting ready”.

        I find most work clothes uncomfortable, I have bad skin reactions to most makeup and repetitive wrist injuries that flare if I blow dry my hair, so I don’t have an easy time looking professional. (Please believe me that air drying my fine frizzy hair never looks professional regardless of how I style it, even though that was the choice I made most days even before the pandemic).

        So…. again this all comes down to: don’t get confused and think that your work PREFERENCES are anyone else’s.

        1. James*

          “Having a work uniform is your preference, it’s not a universal truth that it helps people get into work mode.”

          I disagree. There have been psychological studies showing that how we dress can affect how we function. To be clear, I don’t mean something like a required uniform. My “work uniform” on a jobsite is steel-toed boots, dark blue jeans, a t-shirt, and a vest; at the office it’s dressy pants, a button-down shirt, and descent shoes. I’ve known people who’s work uniform was the comfortable, fuzzy PJs as well. For the majority of people your brain associates what you wear while working with being in work mode.

          Obviously everyone’s different and some people are more influenced by this than others. But I don’t think calling it a preference is accurate. It’s like saying a shade-blind person prefers certain color pallets; it’s a physiological thing that some people are more influenced by than others, not a choice they make.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            I do get up and get dressed every morning, but I’m wearing clothes I find comfortable, not clothes that I’d wear to the office. I do agree that sitting in your pajamas all day is probably bad for your mindset but there’s a huge difference between dressing in office clothing and clothes that make you comfortable and happy.

            Among the many factors, I sweat a lot (no matter the temperature), and have sensitivity to aluminum antiperspirant and frequently would soak through my shirt underarms by lunchtime, which was distracting for me: I was uncomfortable, I wondered if anyone could tell, I arranged myself in certain ways at meetings so the damp underarms wouldn’t show. Now I wear sweat wicking athletic shirts when not at work and it is SO liberating. I never think about sweat while working anymore which makes me happier and more productive than any button down blouse ever could.

          2. WellRed*

            My work uniform now consists of yoga pants or leggings but I definitely get dressed for the day. When I lay on getting out of pajamas, I lay on productivity. Others may be fine.

          3. Kella*

            The point is, it’s not universal. On average, people are more likely to get into “work mode” by wearing their “work clothes” whatever clothes those are, but that is not the case for 100% of people and the degree to which their clothes affect them is not going to be the same for every person. You can definitively say that wearing your “work clothes” helps you be more productive. You can’t definitively say that it is an inherent truth that all people work that way or that that is the superior way of thinking of clothing.

            Similarly, I have a number of chronic illnesses that means I can’t work very much and 100% of my work will be from home. While sometimes I have benefited from the routine of getting dressed or moving into my “work space” to help prompt productivity, other times, I’m sick enough that these routines have created a threshold that is too high for me to get over, and as a result, I don’t work. On these days, it helps if I can let go of the expectation of doing that routine and just get done what I can, lying in bed in my PJ’s. My routine ceases to be a valuable tool to me the minute it hinders my ability to accomplish my goals. The fact that it is sometimes the thing that *enables* me to reach those goals is irrelevant to those times. And the person who is in the best position to judge what routines and environment enable them to work best is the person doing that work.

          4. Observer*

            There have been psychological studies showing that how we dress can affect how we function.

            Yes. And for some people those effects can be negative. Also, general patterns do NOT tell you much about an individual person. Maybe “most” people perform better when they are dressed up. Is it so hard to imagine that there are a lot of people who fall outside of that “most”. Is it impossible to understand that for some people it’s not just that they don’t perform better, but they perform worse? Like maybe someone has skin sensitivities. Or maybe they are on a tight budget so they are stuck with poorly fitting clothes. Or they just don’t like the kind of clothes that their office dress code mandates. Whatever.

            And guess what? You don’t have to come to the office to dress up if that helps you work!

            Which is to say that you are making some significant and unsupported leaps here.

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              “Also, general patterns do NOT tell you much about an individual person. ”


              I work with data and science. One book I re-read pretty regularly is _How to Lie with Statistics_ and I’ve been thinking it’s time for a another read through, because so many -ist arguments lately have boiled down to “Well, on average…”

              Drives me figuratively mad.

            2. James*

              “Maybe “most” people perform better when they are dressed up.”

              I never said “dress up”. I said “work uniform”, and clarified what I meant by it, using myself as an example demonstrating that this isn’t limited to business casual or employer-required clothing. It’s a PERSONAL choice what your work uniform is. The only thing that really matters is that you typically wear it when you work.

              To give another example of this effect in action: I remember waking up one cold morning at an SCA event not wanting to fight. I’d slept wrong, the place we were staying wasn’t heated so it wasn’t a good night’s sleep, and my hauberk had frost on it. Still, I put on the armor thinking maybe I’d do one or two pick-up fights. By the time I’d strapped my helm on I was already in fighter mode. The act of putting on my armor caused a pretty dramatic change in my perspective.

              I’m not sure how this is going to be spun into “You think everyone should dress up for work because you like to”. I’m sure someone will, I’m just not sure how.

              “Also, general patterns do NOT tell you much about an individual person.”

              Not once you have additional data to go on, no. And as Dr. Cox said, statistics are meaningless to the individual. But it gives you an idea of what to expect–to again cite Dr. Cox, if you hear hoofbeats you think horsey, not zebra. If humans in general have a strong tendency towards X, it’s fair to assume that you have a strong tendency towards X–at least until you have further data on the topic (at which point it ceases to be an assumption). It’s also fair to try to use this productively–again, at least until you determine if it works for you or not.

              1. Tali*

                So… what if your work uniform IS your PJs?
                Also, I would really like to find some workplaces that allow truly personal choices on your “work uniform”. Most places near me seem to require business casual, so it’s not a personal choice.

              2. allathian*

                I guess I’m lucky, in the sense that I normally wear jeans and a long-sleeved, usually patterned t-shirt that doesn’t require ironing, and a caftan or cardigan on top if the weather, or AC, warrants it. I wear the same clothes at the office and at home. I get into work mode by grabbing my second cup of coffee and starting my work computer.

                That said, I do admit that wearing slightly nicer clothes than usual and some makeup gave me confidence the last time I interviewed for a new job. But I don’t need that sort of confidence boost every day at work, and I’d hate it if going to work every day made me as nervous as interviewing does.

      2. Ismonie*

        Work uniforms don’t help me, and never have. And I used to wear a uniform-uniform (ex-military.) Not everyone relates to attire, formal or otherwise, in the same way. Don’t even get me started and the gender conformity required by “office” or “professional” attire.

      3. Stop whining*

        Having a work uniform may get *you* into work mode, James, but that’s not universally true. I am more productive when I’m more comfortable. As far as networking, I have worked on geographically scattered teams for almost three decades now. I built fantastic relationships with teammates in another state, which gave me great support when I transferred to that office. And those, “Oh hey, since I ran into you [on the way to the restroom] and *I’m* not busy, so I’ll just grab some unscheduled time” meetings are one of the aspects of work that has been greatly improved by working from home. I do agree that working from home can mean working more, but for many of us, it means we can throw in some laundry or stop for dinner and then go back to working rather than being stuck in the office until everything is done. This really isn’t about one choice being inherently better. There are pros and cons to each, and each works better for some people. It’s really about getting people to recognize that just because something works for you does not make it the best way for everyone.

        1. Fran Fine*

          + 1

          I’ve also been fully remote since before the pandemic and have had no problem with networking or mentoring at work. In fact, I’m currently being mentored by the VP of marketing and I’m going to be joining our global mentoring program as a mentor to a young professional myself shortly. That person is also going to be fully remote and possibly in another country.

    4. Nora*

      Me too! I miss getting dressed and leaving the house and my 12 minute bus ride. And most of all I miss when my home was someplace I didn’t have to think about work.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      I think there is going to be a Great Divide in the workforce. Some people are like you, and want to work in an office with others. Some people will flat refuse to go back. Workers will sort themselves out between employers with in-person offices and those without. The interesting question is how employers will sort themselves out, over the long haul. Some jobs genuinely need to be done in person, of course. Those aren’t the question. But for jobs that can be done remotely, requiring in-person attendance will put the employer at a disadvantage since some percentage of potential hires will nope out, or take the job only as a last resort while they continue looking. The question is what percentage of workers will fall on either side of the line. Heck if I know. I very much doubt that anyone else does, either.

    6. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Another Michael – I appreciate that you can both wonder why people don’t feel the way you do, and have empathy for people to have their own reasons for continuing to work remote. That seems to be what’s missing from the LW…the empathy.

      Also, if they ever do decide to raise a child, I bet they are going to want the same support that they’re NOT currently giving to their own manager. Yikes!

      1. Observer*

        I appreciate that you can both wonder why people don’t feel the way you do, and have empathy for people to have their own reasons for continuing to work remote. That seems to be what’s missing from the LW…the empathy.


        Also, if they ever do decide to raise a child, I bet they are going to want the same support that they’re NOT currently giving to their own manager. Yikes!

        Yikes indeed.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      If it makes you feel any better, people on the opposite side of the spectrum are equally baffled that anyone would want to waste time getting dressed and commuting when they could spend more time with their family/friends/pets, less on commuting costs, and life the lounge pants life. :)

      I enjoyed the waltzing down K Street in my business attire when I first got to DC, but. 20 years in, it’s lost its luster. Been there, done that, much more productive and happier at home.

      1. alienor*

        I also remember when I was 25 and enjoyed feeling like a Real Adult heading off to an office. I think it lasted about a year. Now I just want to do my work and get paid with as little fuss as possible.

  15. nerak*

    I’m not sure why my butt needs to be in a seat in an office instead of in a seat in my home, where I still do my job at the same level as before. I don’t think it means I value my career less than other people, it simply means that I am someone who prefers to work from home. I enjoy getting up 10-15 minutes before my start time, seeing my kids off to school, and my now quiet house where I can focus without people stopping by and interrupting me. I don’t understand the people who want to be in the office, myself.

    1. Irish girl*

      Well my kids are home with my husband since they are not in school yet so my house inst quiet… I want to be in the office where its quiet. So that should be easily understandable.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Totally understandable. My husband and I are childfree, and he needs (for work reasons) to work onsite, so I have a quiet house to work in. I really do feel for parents who’ve been trying to juggle work, child care, online school, etc. I fully recognize that people have different situations and different preferences, and I think OP needs to understand that, as well.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Well my kids are home with my husband since they are not in school yet so my house inst quiet… I want to be in the office where its quiet. So that should be easily understandable.

        My coworkers are professional distractions; my children are amateurs.

          1. iliketoknit*

            The problem I have with this argument *in response to this letter* is that I get the concept of a work uniform, but the uniform that’s appropriate for when I work in the office is much more uncomfortable and high maintenance than the uniform I’d choose at home. (I also personally find moving into a designated work space where I don’t do other stuff much more helpful for getting into the work mindset than clothes.)

      3. James*

        This whole issue begs the question, why does anyone else need to understand–or worse, approve of–your preferences? Some people prefer tea to coffee, some prefer coffee to tea. Some like sedans, some like pickups. Some are cat people, some are dog people. Some are WFH people, some are office people. Why do we need to justify this preference at all? Why isn’t “I prefer working from an office” considered a complete statement?

        1. Observer*

          That’s a really good point. Without specific work related issues, preference is really enough.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          We have to justify it because of people like OP who want to force people to accommodate their preferences and are apparently totally unable to see why others would not feel the same way without passive-agressive gems like doubting their commitment to their career.

      4. Liz T*

        Which is why we should all get a WFH stipend to either defray the costs of working from our actual home or to put towards a coworking space.

        1. James*

          “…or to put towards a coworking space.”

          That argument always seems like it’s an attempt to re-invent the wheel. After all, companies already paid for a coworking space: offices.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I don’t have kids, my husband is back in his office full-time, I could WFH full time right now if I wanted to.

      But I like having time in the office because it’s a change of scenery, because I have a full desk/dual monitor set up here vs just a laptop at the kitchen table at home and no home office… and because yes, sometimes it is easier to talk things out face to face or have quick chats that don’t require Teams.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I was able to throw money at the problem, and invested in a pair of monitors (on sale at Costco) and a docking station for my laptop, so my setup at home is just as good as or better than the office setup.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, same here, but it also requires enough space. Before the pandemic, I worked occasionally from home but mostly went to the office, because I sat at the kitchen table on chairs that are fine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but not so much for working all day, never mind that I vastly prefer a double-monitor setup. When we got sent home, we fixed up a desk with a big monitor (32″, 4K) in our home office, where both of us have our own computers, my monitor has dual cables, so my home computer is also hooked up to it, no docking station needed. My husband’s office doubles as our home gym, and when he was in remote school, our son worked from his room.

          I do realize that I’m very privileged to be able to do this.

    3. Brett*

      “where I can focus without people stopping by and interrupting me”

      In the office, there were roughly 50 people who could stop by and interrupt my work.
      With WFH, there are roughly 800 people who could stop by and interrupt my work.
      Digital availability, for me, has very different expectations than physical availability.
      I’ve seen this repeat for other friends and family, though sometimes they are unaware of how much their digital availability has increased (e.g. the sheer volume of “after hours” texts and messages they are responding to). My role has a much more intense awareness of this, I think.

  16. A Teacher*

    This letter screams privilege from almost the get go… a lot YOU don’t have to do this or YOU see the value in it. Look, I’m a teacher and have all of my kids in a classroom where there’s no way to socially distance and we have kids out on quarantine all the time. I’m also autoimmune compromised. I don’t like remote teaching so I’m fine back in my classroom. That said, this has been the worst year of teaching in 17 years in education. Everyone is tired and everyone (regardless of job) has had to adapt to this new way of living. Things are going back to how it was before and that is on you, the OP, to adjust to.

    1. SoundLikeMyMother*

      YOU. With a capital Y-O-U. That is exactly what I got from this letter as well. The LW spends a lot of time talking about what makes sense to them, from their perspective. Are they truly surprised that people work differently?? Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be managed by a person who can’t see that folks work productively in different ways. Sounds very hard to please.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yup. The answer to why other people don’t have the same preferences at they do is right there in their letter – other people have longer commutes, spouses, children, pets, and a social life outside of work. No idea why they could breeze through that without connecting the dots, but it definitely comes across as self-centered and myopic (neither of which are good manager traits).

      Working from home has been so great that I’m considering looking for another job that would let me do it full-time. I have gotten to eat dinner with my family every night, help my kids with their homework, go to sporting practices/events I never could before, and have kid-free lunches with my spouse where we can connect as two adults rather than two parents. It’s glorious, and I’m only going back when the office reopens next year because I need the paycheck to pay my bills.

        1. allathian*

          Thirding this, the lunches have been great. Sadly, my husband’s going to have to go back to the office 3 days a week, starting next week. :( I suspect the only reason they’re mandating this is that they have expensive office space that’s been sitting empty for the last 18 months, he’s been able to do his job just fine without going to the office…

  17. TiredMama*

    The only relevant issue here is that OP needs to tell her boss that she feels she needs more overall guidance in order to manage her direct reports. That seems remediable (but also doesn’t require coming to the office regularly if at all?)

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      But she did get that guidance. The CEO said each employee should “do whatever you want”. OP wants to do enforce a different policy in her group. That isn’t a need for guidance; that’s violating company policy.

    2. sometimeswhy*

      YES – “Hey, Manager, I’m realizing that I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around leadership strategies for a team I don’t see. Do you have any resources you can point me at?”

      Alternately, OP could seek out resources on leadership development, how to deliver remote evaluation, how to do distributed teambuilding, task-based management, and fortheloveofkittens do some structured examination of their professional paradigm and personal biases.

      1. Katefish*

        Every time I’ve managed or supervised, I’ve had employees off-site even pre-COVID – you build relationships through tech in that case. It’s a little slower, but definitely can be done!

        1. sometimeswhy*

          Yes! My work is technical and the contributors to it are distributed across a pretty big area. We have people whose entire careers are worked away from the main office. Being able to evaluate people on their work rather than how busy they look or how nice they are and building relationships with intention instead of out of convenience is part and parcel of (most of) our operation.

          But over the last year and a half I’ve watched some of the main office folks navigate the realization that they, uh, don’t have real performance metrics and, in the process, uncover some uncomfortable truths about themselves, how they’ve categorized their staff, and how they’ve led up until now. There’ve been some sad moments but also some amazing changes.

    3. Observer*

      Why? That would come off as really passive aggressive. The official policy is “do what works”. That’s pretty clear. Also, the manager has been pretty clear that they support the official policy. So what guidance does the OP need? How to set their own policies that are totally out of sync with the official company policy?

      The ONLY way the OP should even think about bringing this back up with their manager is if they identify a concrete work issue that the current policy is causing. And I don’t mean “I think we’d build better culture”.

      1. TiredMama*

        It sounds like OP is struggling and needs more support. I don’t see anything wrong with asking for it from your boss.

        1. ThirstonHurston*

          I see people have tried to answer your question, and perhaps I can try to give some more clarity.

          The issue that the OP needs help with is accepting the directive of the CEO. Employees can do what they like regarding office attendance. The problem is not with her direct reports nor is it an issue with carrying out the business needs. Her opinion of what is best in in direct opposition to what the CEO has declared is acceptable. Speaking to her manager (and it seems like she may have done so already, but we can’t be certain based on the information) will not look on her nor will it help her problem. She is looking for support in forcing her reports to come back to the office. Her manager is right in withholding such support as it could jeopardize her manager’s job by defying the CEO.
          If OP had said she needed help in manageing her team remotely, then I could see your argument. But she asked for help in imposing her view and I hope she reads the comments and accepts that she is simply wrong in this situation.

          1. TiredMama*

            As a manager, I would rather an employee tell me all this than stew in it. I would want to know that my employee cannot get onboard with a company policy and that it is spilling over to the employees they manage. Will it necessarily help, OP? Maybe not in the way OP thinks. When I have been in this boat before, talking it all through helped my employees either accept it and let the issue go or, if it was just something they could not let go of, chart their exit path.

  18. Mouse*

    Okay, this letter had some very unfortunate phrasing and it’s difficult to see someone with managerial power being so unwilling to think about others’ circumstances. But.

    I get it. I have been going into the office 3+ days per week, but it’s totally optional for us, and I miss having other people here! I wish everyone would come back to the office. I miss the conversations, the spontaneous problem-solving, the professional development and relationship building… all of it.

    The problem is that I’m clearly in the minority of my company, in terms of these preferences. LW is too. The culture of the company, no matter what it was before, has shifted to one of remote work and flexibility. One person, whether me or the LW, isn’t going to be able to change it. That may mean we look for new jobs that do have a culture of in-person collaboration, or it may mean that we learn to adapt. Either way, stubbornly insisting that your way is the best way and everyone should change to meet YOUR wishes is not going to work out well for anyone.

    1. fposte*

      This is a great comment. I think also it’s useful not to divorce the pandemic from the OP’s approach. Usual life in the office is the normal she’s been hoping to return to, and she hasn’t yet come to terms with the fact that that’s one of the normals the pandemic may have changed completely.

    2. Mouse*

      Addendum: To all of you who prefer WFH, I’d like to ask that you have a little sympathy for us office-preferers. I’ve heard a lot of “well, you can go to the office if you want to, so what’s the problem?” but if everyone else is at home, sitting in the office and doing the same zoom meetings just isn’t what I’m looking for.

      1. LilyP*

        I’d also suggest to OP, if you’re going in just because you’re expecting/hoping that other people will be there…..let go of that expectation. It’s not going to happen at this company right now. And maybe that changes your calculus about whether it’s worth it to go in at all, or maybe just the commute/office environment/lunch options/better internet/etc is worth it on its own and you can let go of this constant hope/disappointment cycle. And/or come up with some system with your reports to coordinate so that you’re there for sure on the days when they do want to come in (and feel safe doing so).

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Nope. No sympathy here. My entire life I have been fending off extroverts who want–or demand, when in a position of power over me–that I fill their need to be around people. This is not my responsibility. Go find other extroverts to hang with. Leave us introverts alone.

        1. allathian*

          Yup! That said, even as an introvert I recognize that I can benefit from socializing with my coworkers occasionally. I just don’t want to do it on a daily basis, or as a requirement. I’ve never been so productive in my job as I’ve been for the past 18 months, but even I find myself missing the random conversations with coworkers who aren’t my teammates. My job requires very little collaboration, and I have almost no meetings outside of my team.

      3. CBB*

        Before I started my new job, I thought I preferred working onsite. At my new job, where about half my coworkers are remote, I realized what I actually prefer is, as you say “the conversations, the spontaneous problem-solving, the professional development and relationship building…”

        If I could have those things while also working from home, I would happily become a WFH convert.

        1. too many too soon*

          I’ve actually been enjoying those kinds of convos on teams chat, both one-on-one and in group chats/teams. It’s been interesting to see which of my coworkers do likewise.

        2. Ismonie*

          We do it pretty well through chat, or if someone is an expert on something, I send them an email and set up a call or videoconference. When I was in the office, I couldn’t always pick brains on demand either, sometimes my colleagues were on deadline and couldn’t noodle with me on something for 15-30 minutes needed.

          1. Starbuck*

            Totally. I sadly work with a group of people who adamantly refuse to do things like use a chat, or learn platforms like Slack. The only written communication they can handle is email, which is a huge barrier for being able to replicate face-to-face chats that we used to have to plan things and check in. We do virtual meetings of course, but everyone talks about how much they hate those. The result is that my workplace is functioning way worse on collaborative projects and big picture planning tasks. People can get their data crunched and reports written more easily from home, but that’s only a small part of the work.

      4. Colette*

        I think a lot of people agree on the benefits of the office vs. the benefits of working from home, they just weigh them differently. I like talking with my coworkers in person, but not as much as I like being at home the second I’m done work. I like having a cafeteria on site, but not enough to want to wear a mask all day.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        I have sympathy that you have an unmet need, but not for the requirement that other people accommodate that preference, which requires us to do something that is tiresome and unnecessary, often with no real business purpose. The cost to me is time with my family, 1-2 hours daily commute (depending on how on fire metro is – and this is normal in DC, I live 15 miles from my office), and lost productivity. That’s a lot so someone can make small-talk in the coffee room.

        I also have one team that excels at spontaneous problem solving – and two of its members were remote before the pandemic. They have no problem hitting up their teammates on IM or a quick video call to collaborate on how to deal with today’s Gordian knot. The rest of my team is distributed across 10 floors of office building (embedded with project teams), so whether they’re in or out of the office, they’re still more apt to call, email, or IM each other than walk four floors to talk it out.

        1. Mouse*

          Absolutely, and I agree that it’s not on other people to work around my preferences. For sure. Just that it’s getting a little frustrating to hear “you’re fine, you can go to the office if you want” when that’s not actually solving anything for me. People with the remote preference can work from home (where that flexibility is permitted) whether other people do or not and it doesn’t really affect the utility they get from exercising that preference.

          1. Stop whining*

            Mouse, many of us who prefer WFH for one reason or another don’t have ideal situations either. I think a lot of people can commiserate that out situations aren’t ideal. But this thread is focused on OP wanting to force her staff to come in to meet her social needs. It didn’t start out as a balanced discussion about the good and bad in our current work choices, so the focus is on “do what you need to do, but don’t force me to do what’s not right for me in order to fulfill your social-emotional need.” It might help to read responses through the lense of the original letter.

      6. Ismonie*

        I’m sympathetic, but no so sympathetic I want to torch what works for/is safer/in some ways is necessary for me because of your preference. Make sense?

        1. Mouse*

          Absolutely, and I’m not asking anybody to, as I said in the original comment! Just saying that it’s getting hard to hear “you’re fine, you can go to the office if you want” when that’s not actually solving anything for me.

            1. Fran Fine*

              Mouse will possibly need to find a new company to work for where the majority of the employees prefer to be in person. It sounds like the current workplace culture has shifted and isn’t changing back anytime soon, so Mouse (like the OP) can either accept the new normal of their workplace, or find someplace else that gives them what they’re looking for.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            …huh, that is a really reasonable ask and I’m pondering why I’m struggling with it.

            I suspect it’s a “silent majority, extreme minority” problem: The majority of people who feel like you are just quietly bummed about the isolation during the work day. Then, I only hear about this from people like OP (who think we owe her our presence) or from management (we demand you come in…because we said so).

            So, I’m having to disentangle the distinct stances of “*I* miss working in an office” from “I demand *everyone* follows my preference to work in the office.”

      7. Ami*

        I don’t mean to be difficult, but I have spent every moment of my life – through school, University and work – having to adapt to the in-classroom and in-office preferences of those around me.

        I’ve been forced to commute for between two and four hours a day, run on permanent jet lag from being a natural night owl being forced to be a morning person, and been made to mask my own natural neurodiverse nature purely for the comfort and preferences of those around me. And I’m sick of it.

        I’m hoping that suddenly being “forced” to adapt to the preferences of others, which are in opposition to your preferences, have taught people something.

      8. msjwhittz*

        Okay but for the zoom meetings to end, at least in my workplace, the actual *pandemic* has to end, which … is a long way off. Right now we all sit in our offices, masked if we share with someone else and happen to have overlapping in-office schedules, and participate on those zoom meetings with people in offices down the hall or one floor above or whatever. Because the pandemic is still going on and even the vaccines do not prevent transmission 100% I have sympathy for your preference but don’t look at me WFH as standing in the way of getting what you want!

  19. CW*

    I am going to be brutally honest here. If OP were my boss, and I was forced into the office while every other department can continue to work from home, then I am going to start to job search and quit as soon as I get an offer. Why should I waste time and gas, as well as wear and tear on my car, while the rest of the company can save them? Now, if the CEO says everyone MUST go back into the office, then I will happily comply. But if the CEO says we can continue to work from home, and I am one of the few that must go into the office because my boss forces me to (especially against the CEO’s word) when it is not necessary, then you can bet that I will not be happy.

  20. AD*

    I personally feel that people are running out of excuses not to come back.

    My personal opinion is 180 degrees different than the OP but this line stood out to me as particularly egregious. There are plenty of people who are immunocompromised or high-risk whose health concerns are not “excuses” — people whose health history or issues may not be plainly visible to you. I’ll echo what others said, in that your letter has very little substance on how this flexibility is impacting your work (it sounds like it isn’t). But I’d advise you, OP, to mature a bit and realize that you may not know everything — about the people around you, their individual health circumstances, and the fact that an ideal work culture varies from person to person.

    1. hbc*

      I tend to see that attitude a lot with people who think that there is One Right Way to do things. The idea that one needs a solid reason for making a different choice, viewing that reason as an “excuse,” and then having an arbitrary expiration date on that excuse regardless of whether it’s still valid.

      I mean, there’s still no afterschool care at my kids’ elementary school and Covid hasn’t been here long enough for me to legally let them come home to an empty house. A magical babysitting fairy doesn’t appear once it’s been 60 days of me needing to pick them up at the bus stop, so pretty sure my “excuse” still holds.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I personally feel like it is none of OP’s business why people are not coming back if the CEO has said they can make their own choices.

      Everything else I want to say would get me banned.

    3. Siege*

      Yeah, I’m not really looking forward to having to go back to the office next year and demonstrate to half my coworkers that Torsemide REALLY DOES mean I need to pee eight times before noon. It will be a lot more impacting in-person than it is on Zoom.

      I also am not very interested in “health concerns” as an “excuse” for not being in the office. People don’t want to be in the office. If their workplace allows that, they don’t need an excuse, and nothing IS an excuse. It might be a reason, but “I like working on the couch with the cat on my lap” is also a reason.

    4. L'étrangere*

      The coworkers themselves may have conditions that impairs their immune system and that they prefer to keep to themselves, because they are legally entitled to do so, because of the discrimination they may well suffer otherwise. Age discrimination also, since it seems like the OP’s office consists entirely of young and healthy looking people. Yet I personally know of many young working people who are not as healthy as they look.
      Even more invisibly, the coworkers may be close to someone who cannot be vaccinated and protected from the OP’s reckless behavior (still alive! All is well). Many people have children, many people have been led by the pandemic to be closer to elders in their families, many people have partners/friends who are more vulnerable than what you can see. Some of the most strictly isolating people I know are young and healthy, but have a disabled small child, a 90 year old grandma at home etc. And we won’t even consider people who are exposed to the OP while commuting, shopping etc.
      Basically it’s sad that the OP has such a restricted social life that their reports need to provide emotional labor on top of their workload, such cold relations with their roommates that they’d rather be at work, such a general lack of compassion that their convenience primes people’s life and health.. Many others have used these pandemic changes to reflect on their priorities in life and to try to live more fully. It’s not too late..

      1. une autre Cassandra*

        Seriously. I am relatively healthy and am not as far as I know at any especially elevated risks if I catch COVID, but I still *very much do not want to catch COVID* and was the last holdout to continue working full-time from home. (I came back after I got my second shot this spring.)
        I feel like simply *not wanting to catch COVID*, especially in the era of the delta variant, remains a very legitimate position to take and not an “excuse” at all. (Of course, one of the reasons I was able to get away with minimal pressure to return before I was comfortable is that I disclosed that my spouse *is* at an elevated risk from COVID. I wonder if I would have been pressured more to come back earlier if I hadn’t. Ugh.)

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, that one was particularly tone-deaf. Their CEO has given people the choice and framing other people’s preferences as “excuses” (during a PANDEMIC) is just bad.

      My “excuse” not to go back is that I don’t want to and am not required to do so yet to do my job. I accomplished SO MANY THINGS last year, have never had a better relationship with my spouse, and have gotten to spend more time with my kids (who, no offense to my coworkers, are the people with whom I prefer to spend time). I don’t need an “excuse” to continue being great at my job from home.

    6. Rebecca Stewart*

      And sometimes, it’s not just physical health.
      One of my partners has complex PTSD from childhood. She has a lot of trouble in the fall and winter. The cheery traditional carols that to others are happy holiday music were the soundtrack to physical abuse for her. Working from home, she doesn’t have to take meds to deal with that anxiety and heightened arousal. And as I said above, those of us with mental illnesses often have to put on a mask of “I am Just Fine and Perfectly Okay Perfect Worker” when we’re working on site. Not so much at home. People don’t understand how much energy masking takes.

    1. Evan Þ.*

      And if they do – well, I just finished cleaning the kitchen while tuned in to a meeting. I’ve found that doing low-attention housework like that really helps me pay attention.

      That said, I really like going into the office sometimes, too. Some things would be nice if the rest of my team was there too, but I definitely don’t want to force them.

      1. Jack Straw*

        Or that the ability to jump up from my desk and be outside for a quick lap around the yard in under 60 seconds has saved me from saying something rash or in the heat of the moment SO many times.

      2. Philly Redhead*

        I totally agree! Being able to do mindless chores while tuned into a meeting has done wonders for my ability to pay attention to meetings.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This is why I listen to podcasts while driving, but not while sitting at home. Listening without visual stimulation does not require one’s full attention, and it is very difficult to keep full attention without something else going on. In meetings sitting around a conference table this is why we doodle. Being able to clean house at the same time is brilliant.

          1. Alex*

            Now that you mention it – one of the big upsides for me in WFH is that I can actually work while being tuned in to a meeting (IT)… more often than not, those are 1H meetings where I’m basically waiting for my name to be mentioned to give 2 minutes of input. In the olden days, I would sit in that meeting room, being bored out of my mind, doodling on paper (because taking out your laptop and noisily hacking away is just frowned upon…), but I have not doodled a single time since WFH started, because I could use that time to produce actual work.

        2. BeenThere*

          Same. As a deeply experienced engineer the most dangerous thing to you is if you invite me and I get bored. To keep myself acting in the meeting I’m going to poke all the holes in your implementation and you better be ready to defend them to the level of a Phd candidate. Let me knit and my brain is less itchy.

  21. Ashley*

    OP I really think you could lose employees over this. Many people value a culture when in person set days is not a thing. Sure when we reach a place where kids are fully vaccinated, child care exists, and adults have gotten vaccinated it might make sense to have your team in the office on day every few weeks for X reason. Right now people shouldn’t have to choose between an income and safety.
    Remember getting COVID if you are vaccinated means you are less likely to DIE. You could still have major health implications, and that is assuming you are lucky enough that the vaccine works for you and you aren’t someone who has an underling condition where you get a new COVID shot every so often because of the medicine you need to stay alive.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Yup. I’m the time where there are employee shortages and salaries are quickly rising, OP’s attitude could cause her reports to exit the company ASAP.

    2. sometimeswhy*

      And EVEN IF OP’s manager keeps them from implementing what they wish they could implement, this will absolutely telegraph into their treatment of their staff and they’ll lose employees anyway, even if they don’t force people to come in.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, and if the reports inform HR and the LW’s managers that the LW is trying to pressure them to return, the LW’s job could potentially be at risk.

  22. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    The pandemic forced a lot of changes that for many people, were long overdue and extremely beneficial. Many parents find that flexible arrangements and work from home are game-changers: they no longer have to hustle their children out the door in the morning to make daycare drop-off before sitting in traffic for an hour before their 8:30 am meeting. They aren’t racing home in the evening to put dinner on the table.

    Commuting is a waste of time and money. There are only 24 hours in a day, and spending 2+ on a train or in traffic is two hours that people aren’t spending on exercise, hobbies, housework, their marriages, or childcare. This all worked out quite well sixty years ago, when people tended to live 15 minutes away from the office and only one parent worked. Now, commutes have grown in length and stress, and couples are tired of balancing two jobs, two commutes, and childcare.

    If you want to drag people back into the office, go ahead. However, be prepared for attrition. Commuting costs a lot of money (gas, wear and tear on vehicle, parking, or train fare; indirect costs – less time = more takeout, more lunches out, meal delivery services at home, babysitter for when the teenagers come home from school). When schools or daycare closes because of an exposure, no one wants to use PTO. People have now figured out how much that all really costs and are willing to take substantial pay cuts to avoid it.

  23. HailRobonia*

    My office too has vaccine requirements and safety protocols in place, such as mandatory masks… and yet I see people in the office with their masks off (“I was just eating lunch” even though we are specifically told to not eat lunch in the office unless we are alone behind closed doors) and people with their effing noses sticking out above their effing masks.

    We are supposed to be in the office twice a week and this is still twice too many for me.

    1. LizB*

      I have to be in the office half-time for legitimate job task reasons. Masks are required at all times, but the other people who are most often in the building with me either wear them below their noses or constantly have them off. I absolutely hate it, and of course I have to wonder how seriously they’re taking this still ongoing pandemic in the rest of their life if this is how they comport themselves at work.

  24. Justin*

    It’s okay to be frustrated though.

    I’m in twice a week, and if anything I’m a little frustrated that others don’t seem to come in if only because it makes me feel like I’m wasting commuting time, lol. But I like the empty office so I don’t care.

    Process that frustration, find some extra social things to do near work (I’m sure there are trivia/happy hour/etc).

  25. bananab*

    It sounds like OPs thinking is out of step with their office’s culture, and they may need to go elsewhere if they are unable to adapt.

  26. Gracely*

    “Do others not feel the same? If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers? With lack of guidance from leadership and no authority to change the situation, what can I do to make sense of all this and stay happy at work?”

    No. No they don’t.
    No, it doesn’t mean they don’t value their careers. It means they value working remotely.
    You have guidance from leadership–they want people to be able to choose when/if they come in. To make sense of it, consider that not everyone has the same preferences as you do. To stay happy at work…accept that your coworkers are not supposed to provide your socialization just because you would like them to, and seek other outlets. Don’t try to force people back in just because that’s what works best for you. Make a sincere effort to try and understand other people’s points of view.

    1. LizB*

      I came here to quote exactly these same questions and give the same answers. Maybe they just phrased their question in a very unfortunate way, but as written, the LW comes off as totally unwilling to consider the world from other people’s perspectives. That’s an unpleasant characteristic in most anyone, but especially in a manager! If you need all your employees to share your exact preferences, you’re going to build wildly dysfunctional teams and drive away great performers.

    2. Cj*

      “If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?” Given that line of thinking, are we to assume the OP doesn’t value her career because she only chooses to come in three days a week instead of five?

      Apparently only her way is the right way.

  27. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    My step MIL is a flight attendant who had a breakthrough case which spread to my FIL, my husband, and I all getting breakthrough infections (which were very mild compared to folks I know who got it pre-vaccine), so I need folks to stop acting like vaccines mean no pandemic protocols need to be taken. My youngest is unable to get vaccinated and therefore caught it from us. She had to be home for 2 weeks because of testing positive. If I was forced to go into the office simply for the sake of being there, what would I have done? Taken 2 weeks of PTO when I was very capable of working? I did work during that time and was still productive.

    I agree that there are benefits to office work and I think a hybrid solution once the pandemic is truly over is the best way forward. But the pandemic is NOT over. And not everyone feels that in-person team connections are the best way to propel their careers. And in the long run, unless there is a real, true business need for someone to come into the office, is it really worth losing a hard-working, productive employee if they want to be fully remote? (I left my last job because they ordered everyone back into the office 3 days a week for no reason and forbid Mondays and Fridays as work from home days. I’m not gonna work somewhere that treats me like a child instead of a responsible adult)

    As Alison and other commenters have stated, I see no real work reasons you feel people should be coming to the office. Have either of your team members’ performance suffered? Are new ideas not coming up as readily as they were before the pandemic when impromptu meetings could happen? Are there coverage issues from working from home?

    I work in a creative field, so I understand how in-person work can spawn things that otherwise might not have been. But I am also SO MUCH more productive at home when I am away from people constantly coming over to me in person. My mental and physical health is better from not dealing with the stress of a commute and having more time to prepare better meals and exercise. While I enjoy the time I spend in the office (1 day every 5 or 6 weeks right now for things like shipping items out to events), I’m honestly not super thrilled about having a commute again next year, even just 2 days a week.

    Just because you get value from in-person work doesn’t mean everyone does. Trying to force it on people when it isn’t an actual work need is not how you keep valuable employees.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I also want to add that in my experience, the best managers think about their reports and what they need and their style and what gets the best out of them. Great managers adapt to their reports. They don’t have a set style, they make sure they are managing the person and not the role. Poor managers expect their reports to change to meet the manager’s “style” and ignore the things they can do that would turn a good employee into a great one.

      OP, your rigidity on this is putting you in the latter camp. Don’t be there! Recognize what works best for your employees and manage to that.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Absolutely! The lockdown provided managers with a challenge: How to keep people connected and working as a team in a virtual environment? Good managers found ways to get it done. The OP did not.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Every new employee at my company fills out a doc that is essential their own personal user manual. You answer questions like your preferred way to communicate, your preferred way to give and receive feedback, things that get under your skin, quirks about how you work. It allows our managers to manage us the way that will get the best results. I was a little skeptical at first but after filling it out, I think it is a really good idea.

          1. Fran Fine*

            That is a good idea. We did something similar in my UX class recently, and I think it makes communication so much better right out the gate.

    2. COHikerGirl*

      I’m sorry you all are dealing with that. :( I have flown a handful of times in this pandemic (flying again on Halloween…my daughter lives out of state). I am impressed by all flight personnel, especially the flight attendants. They have to deal with so much, even in the Before Times. COVID made it worse. Best of luck to all of you!

  28. cosmicgorilla*

    It is possible to maintain a strong company culture with employees working remotely.

    How do I know? I’ve worked at such a place for more than a decade.

    Sounds like LW may be an extrovert. And judgy as all heck.

    Some of us are also single and childless and greatly enjoy our remote worker status. And care deeply about our jobs. And somehow have managed to network with people in other states and even other countries.

    1. erioperi*

      I came to say this as well. I have been working from home for over 10 years and I absolutely love it. I care greatly about my job, my career, and my employer, plus I have built wonderful connections with my coworkers. Collaboration has never been a problem. I think folks forget that WFH isn’t some new concept that just popped up in 2020. There has long been evidence to support the idea that working from home is actually more beneficial for certain folks. The judgement and objections I’ve heard from people who are not used to WFH were one thing before the pandemic (though still annoying) but to have those opinions persist even today, when so many businesses have quickly and successfully transitioned to remote work, is baffling to me.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Yeah, when OP said that (and someone else echoed the sentiment in a response thread above), I was like – have you never heard of tech companies? Many of them have had fully remote workers for decades, and a lot of those people have even risen up to executive levels within their organizations.

    2. iglwif*

      Absolutely! My company has an office and we have people who live locally and used to go in and work there, but we’ve had multiple remote team members for way longer than I’ve been working here, and team culture has never been an issue.

  29. Sauron*

    Hey OP – I get the sense you’re a bit lonely from this letter. Sometimes when I feel isolated I have a similar sort of “why don’t people see this situation the exact same way I do” knee jerk angry reaction, but that’s not a reason to drag your coworkers into work when being at home may have seriously improved their quality of life – they have more time to spend with their families, they can walk their dog during the day, they can eat hot home cooked meals, they don’t have to worry as much about their immune systems, whatever! Do exactly what they’re doing, and do something that will increase YOUR quality of life. Join a hobby group, reconnect with some old friends, try a new sport – whatever you can do that will make you happy but doesn’t depend on others conforming to your exact ideal situation. I’m rooting for you, and I think reframing this whole situation in your head will make your relationship with your direct reports a lot better.

    1. Sauron*

      Editing to say – I do see the OP’s comment about an active social life – but when you’re used to that extending into work too, it can still feel isolating when it doesn’t.

      1. Anonym*

        I think your point about reassessing OP’s social life is a good one – it may be there, but could benefit from making some adjustments given that the work aspect won’t (and shouldn’t) change any time in the near future. She did ask about how to feel better about this, and this aspect is probably key!

  30. PolarVortex*

    My company is very much about letting people decide their comfort level coming in if their job allows flexibility in staying home. But it’s very clear much like you they think there’s more benefit to coming in because collaboration and other such stuff.

    Thing of it is, I’ve managed people remotely and seen them at most once every 3 years. It’s possible to build all the togetherness and collaboration and other crap remotely, it’s just harder for people who’ve never had to do that. Or people who are extroverts and need face to face daily. But many people aren’t like that.

    Let me tell you that every time my job has talked about changing their flex work I have considered leaving. In today’s job market, could you afford losing your two employees if they’ve decided they can find better if you start asking them to come in against their comfort level/job need?

  31. Meep*

    I really have a hard time caring considering we are still in the middle of a pandemic due to selfish mindsets like OP’s.

    My (former) boss made me and only me return to the office in July 2020 and then constantly exposed me to potential COVID scares with her selfishness. She wanted me there so she could control me and further isolate and gaslight me. I was very fortunate to have been fully vaccinated in October 2020 due to the vaccine trials and it saved me from her giving me COVID in late November.

    Instead of expecting people to bend to your will because you want to socialize, maybe have some compassion and empathy for a change? Either way, you are on the path to being a horrible boss someday.

  32. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I’ve talked to a few workplaces that already have everyone back in the office every day with no immediately evident business need to do so.

    They are losing people to remote jobs. And hiring a replacement is difficult, because they are not remote jobs and a lot of the candidates say no when they hear it. So there’s that unintended(?) consequence to making people come back before they’re ready.

    1. government hack*

      Absolutely true – my state government employer requires two days per week of in-person work, and even that much required in-person time is causing strong candidates to “nope” on out of the hiring process the minute they learn about it. That fact plus a significant acceleration in retirements has us currently stretched very thin, and if it doesn’t turn around in the very near future, balls are going to start being dropped.

      But NOOOOOOO, the politicians want to be able to brag to their constituents that they are keeping butts in seats, so they insist on that minimum two days a week, and they’re planning to increase it back to 100% in-person by early next year, because REASONS.

      The sad thing is that those constituents they want to brag to are the exact same ones that our agency serves, and they’re the ones who are really going to suffer from the attrition when scores of state employees flee to the private sector where they can work remotely. But they’ll never connect those dots; they’ll just whine about all the “lazy state employees.”


      1. Rebecca Stewart*

        The job my boyfriend was just hired for was having a similar issue. As it’s connected to the state, they needed a worker with the skillset who lived in state, and most of their candidates were looking for a full remote position.

        It worked out fine for us as Boyfriend has the skillset and happens to live within 20 minutes of the physical office, and this is a company he is ethically okay with working for, but they had had quite a bit of trouble finding candidates, apparently. (They are 100% remote for now, but it will eventually be a hybrid position.)

    2. calonkat*

      My government office has been back at work with no remote option (after operating remotely with no loss of productivity) since a month after the vaccines were made available to us.

      We’ve lost 4 people in my department alone to remote work options and I know of 6 others (myself included) who would jump at remote work opportunities. I sit here in a cubicle every day wearing a mask, and having meetings on zoom with my co-workers. I accomplish less than I did at home, in part because I’m resentful and unhappy now that I’ve experienced working remotely. Also the allergy meds (I’m allergic to most things that grow outside and many perfumes and colognes) and pain meds (at home I could change position as needed, here I sit unmoving for 8-9 hours a day) aren’t helping me stay focused.

    3. Brett*

      We are a 100% remote office who is also losing people to remote jobs. WFH makes it much easier to job search for a wider variety of jobs, with employers in high cost of living areas who are offering dramatically more pay (for now).

  33. Jack Straw*

    Spitballing here, but I’m guessing LW doesn’t have anyone in their circle who have co-morbidities.

    I’m in active cancer treatment, fully vaxed plus my booster, working for an org that is mandating vaccines—and I’d be really mad if my boss wanted me to come into the office for the purposes in this letter. I’m going to pass on risking my health to network, maintain the company culture, and help my coworkers “stay happy at work.”

    1. Temperance*

      Yep. My husband has MS, I’m pregnant, and frankly, people like OP who want me to risk my husband’s health for their own purposes make me rage. I’d rather have less networking time with extroverts and more time not bringing the virus home to my husband, thanks.

      1. Jack(ie) Straw*

        This. It’s this statement EXACTLY: “I’d rather have less networking time with extroverts and more time not bringing the virus home to my husband, thanks.”

  34. Irish girl*

    As the only person on my team or even the larger group we belong to in the office on a regular basis, I get where she is coming from. I would love to have my co-workers in the office with me on pre-scheduled days and have some quick conversations. I would love for our culture to be back to office work with flexibility like we had pre-pandemic.

    But that is my feeling and not my companies position so I need to deal with how I am feeling without it impacting how I deal with my team. So does OP. Even when the pandemic is “over”, their company might never go back to requiring people to be in the office they way they think it should be. Since I started on this team in the office, we had 5 new hires plus my new boss all hired as remote to our main office where I work. The coworkers who are assigned to the office are not coming in cause there is no reason for them to. I am in the office for my own reasons and I am never going to be in a situation here that everyone on my team will be in the same office on the same day as me.

  35. anonymouse*

    “I still think the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture”
    I think that billion dollar companies who have created technology that makes working from an office completely disagree with you.
    But speaking solely as a mid career gen x-er with no horses in your race, I have to say that I completely disagree with you.

  36. Midwestern Scientist*

    I definitely agree that if there is not a business reason to physically be in the office that people should be able to be WFH/hybrid. I also see where people are coming regarding the entire tone of the letter. However, this particular phrase jumped out at me: “hope that maybe some of my team will show up on occasion”. Are people just showing whenever they feel like it? This would be a huge source of frustration for my planning ahead tendencies. LW, could you/your boss institute a schedule for who will be in when? You’ll know, Wakein comes on Mondays, Sarah on Thursdays and you can adjust your days in to overlap. For those taking Covid more seriously, they can plan to be in when fewer people are in.

    1. Stop whining*

      The letter indicated that the CEO set the standard as individual choice to WFH or in-person, and the LW’s manager refused to override that by providing guidance such as what you’re suggesting. So it seems the answer is no, LW cannot institute a schedule, because LW does not have that authority.

  37. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Real advice for OP:

    It’s always easier to consider one’s own preferences as an absolute truth or be baffled how anyone can’t see how you’re right and they’re wrong. I’ve done it so many times!

    It’s difficult but ultimately far more rewarding to remind oneself that other people see life differently.

    We’re not out of the pandemic (I just had an appointment cancelled by the NHS because it’s getting swamped with Covid cases. Again), people have been through nearly 2 years of an incredibly stressful situation and frankly there’s a lot of complete burnout that needs to be considered.

    Not being face to face with people doesn’t mean someone doesn’t value their career. I mean, I run an IT department and generally speaking my staff (and me) tend to do just fine chatting over IM, email, occasional video calls and carry on our daily work and career progression.

    I can’t personally know what it’s like to miss the atmosphere of lots of people in the office (again, I get burnt out socially very quickly) but I can understand that there are people, like yourself, who really feel a need for it. Thing is, if people are in the office because they are being forced back they’re probably not going to be contributing to the social environment you need.

    There are alternatives to communication face to face that preserve the working relationships. We tend toward firing emails (and cat gifs, gotta love IT) around and having more general chatter on various Slack channels. Maybe try a few ideas, see how you get on?

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      (BTW we work hybrid at the moment. Calls to attend on site do happen frequently and there are some things that can’t be troubleshooted remotely. There’s currently a rotating schedule of having some people in the office, some at home, others handling the site visits to other offices/depots etc. The whole team and me haven’t been in the same room together since I got this job a year ago)

  38. Former Retail Lifer*

    As someone who has had four vaccinated family members contract the Delta variant, with an elderly relative having to be hospitalized for a week as a result, I’m enraged by the OP. None of my family members contracted a breakthrough case by doing anything reckless. They visited vaccinated family members, went out to eat but avoided the lunch and dinner rush, and ate near people in the breakroom at work. None but one had a serious case, but they all went about their business and potentially spread it to others while asymptomatic. This could easily happen at your workplace, OP. The pandemic is still raging on. Just because you’re not worried about it doesn’t mean your co-workers and direct reports don’t have their own concerns (health or otherwise).

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, good for the OP that they personally didn’t get sick, but I’ve lost three colleagues to COVID. The OP doesn’t seem able to see beyond their own nose.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve lost 3 lovely, good, wonderful people to this dratted virus. All of them were regarded as perfectly healthy beforehand.

        Part of the reason I took a couple of weeks off recently was because I’ve been feeling guilty about that – why did 3 healthy people die and yet me who has multiple health issues is still alive?

        I admit I tend toward the paranoid side regarding this whole pandemic. Back when I was a virologist we’d make comments about how bad it would be if something like Ebola travelled the whole globe but the thing we actually truly feared was a rapidly spreading airborne virus with a high mortality rate.

        The last 2 years have quite literally been that nightmare realised.

        1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

          Vaccines are not a magic shield, and Covid is not over. I would like to start tattooing this on people’s foreheads.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Vaccines are not a magic shield, and Covid is not over. I would like to start tattooing this on people’s foreheads.

            You’re too kind. I suggest it go on the insides of eyelids.

  39. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I can be productive or I can come into the office. Your choice, but I expect to be paid the same either way.

      1. allathian*

        Me too!

        My manager and our HR director have straight up said that they fully expect productivity to decrease a bit when people return to the office, but that building a workplace community and organizational spirit is worth this sacrifice. I guess we’ll see when people start returning more if that will really be the case, or not. We were hybrid before and we’ll still be hybrid, but it’s still unclear what the expectations on the number of days at the office will be. I’ll be happy to go in for development and training days, because those are often more effective, and IMO also more fun, to do in person. That said, I do expect that once the weird novelty of going back to the office wears off, I’ll be able to regain some of my pre-pandemic productivity at the office, but it won’t happen instantly. I also suspect that my productivity will suffer and my job satisfaction will tank if I’ll have to go in more often than about 1 day a week. We’ll see.

  40. LKW*

    With cooler weather settling in here in NYC, I have little desire to get up 45 minutes earlier, freeze on the way to the subway, sweat when I’m on the subway, spend 4x what I normally spend on coffee and lunch, deal with crowds and then slog back home.

    Not when the alternative is a 15 foot commute and better coffee.

  41. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    You are only viewing this through the lense of how this affects you, and are not considering this from your co-workers point of view. As someone who worked the front lines in a COVID unit, and currently goes into ER’s regularly for work let me assure you that we are NO WHERE close to being out of the woods yet. There is still a large portion of the population who is not vaccinated (the reasons do not need to be debated because this response is about what we have to work with not what we would like to work with) and they are dying at alarming rates. So as you state there are vaccines available know that 1. not everyone is using them but most importantly (and frankly bluntly) 2. your need to face to face contact does not trump the need for greater public safety (in my humble opinion).

  42. HelloFromNY*

    I very much doubt that remote work will be going away completely. But many offices will have to mark a specific point in time for which they require people to come back to the office (either full or part time). We can’t deny that there will be people who use a fictitious fear of exposure as an excuse for why they want to continue to work from home. (I happen to know several people who have self disclosed that they are purposely pretending to be more worried then they actually are). But there is no reliable way to tell if someone has real concerns or if they are faking it. The only reasonable option is to continue to allow people leeway with making their own choices.

    1. Alice*

      Well, one way is to actually address safety concerns by requiring vaccination, requiring masks during periods of high community transmission, improving ventilation systems, and creating a culture of staying home when you have a cold. The people who are making things up (?), they people who really are concerned, and the people who are already coming in will all benefit.

    2. AVP*

      I mean, if people are exaggerating how worried they are about Covid because they just have a better time working from home…that’s going to keep happening as long as bosses want people to go back into the office. They’re telling their bosses that because they think the boss’s ideas or values are not good and that’s the only “excuse” that’s working right now. When they are forced to go back to an office, many of them will just quit and go to a remote job elsewhere. So you need to balance your ability to replace them with what your actual need to have a butt in a seat is. And the more it’s bs like “culture” and “spontaneous collabz,” the less your colleagues take you seriously.

      You’re just not competing with the office across the street for employees anymore. As long as you realize that, draw whatever lines you want.

    3. velomont*

      Sorry, as long as there is a sufficiently large population of anti-vaxxers and covid deniers, this pandemic isn’t ending anytime soon. Even fully vaxxed folks who believe that it’s time to get back to the office are not helping.

      And regardless, unless the work functionally requires it, why should people necessarily have to be in a specific building to do work that they can do somewhere else?

    4. too many too soon*

      Many offices that mark a specific point in time for mandatory ‘butt-in-seat’ will have many empty seats when people stop ‘making excuses’ and start giving notice.

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      “But many offices will have to mark a specific point in time for which they require people to come back to the office (either full or part time).”

      …why? I’m not seeing any imperative that would apply when there’s an ongoing and uncontrolled, communicable health crisis happening.

  43. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Well, OP, I can tell you that I for one care a lot more about my semi-dependent immunocompromised basically-mother-in-law and the health of my family than a person at work’s socialization needs, don’t particularly want to be around people who might not be vaxxed and/or are doing who knows what and going who knows where and coming into contact with who knows how many people outside of work, and that I personally found working from home to be much better for me from financial, mental health, and productivity standpoints. And also my dog loved it. And I care more about my dog’s opinion than the opinion of someone who doesn’t have any concrete work-related reasons to shove me back into an office during an ongoing pandemic. If I had a choice and could still be work from home I absolutely would be. I’d be eating a nice, freshly made lunch right now and enjoying the fact that myself and my family were at the lowest possible risk of a pretty terrible virus, and that the time that would normally be spent on my commute at the end of the day would instead be spent on reading, or going for a run, or taking a bubble bath.

  44. kvite*

    I haven’t seen the response because of the paywall, but I agree with many commenters that the OP failed to really indicate how this is affecting the work. The OP did admit that they fail to understand peoples’ attitudes “…with vaccines available and precautions in place…” and I can answer a part of that question (if it were framed as a genuine question and not just a really judgey statement), ….because not everyone at home is vaccinated yet (young children), and because the elderly may not have a sufficient response to the vaccine to really have protection! And because vaccinated people can still spread COVID (although they are less likely to)!

    At my workplace, we’re still prioritizing having most people working from home, so that the people’s who’s work can only take place in the office are SAFER. Everyone is vaccinated, but they are still social distancing in the office and wearing masks all day (unless they have an office with a door that closes.) People are not eating together, unless there’s room to be 6ft distanced – but really not even then.

    I’m not saying that this is the case for the OP, but there are a lot of people who seem to have struggled during the pandemic because they no longer have an audience. If your sense of self is performance-based, it can be lonely to work from home or in an empty office. For some bosses, I think they miss having their “one up” relationships to their staff reified on a daily basis. There are other reasons people struggle in empty offices, or thrive working together with others in person. But I think it’s worth asking ourselves if what we’re really missing is an audience.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If only… experience has shown there are infinite excuses to work onsite if one knows where to pull them from.

    2. The OTHER Other*

      It is striking that in the whole letter there is no info on how WFH is adversely affecting the business or the work, and only frankly uncharitable mention of what the employees’ motives are.

      I think overall the pandemic forcing more flexibility and WFH has exposed just how negligible the presumed advantages of “collaboration” and “culture” really are. Everyone thinks their kids are above average, and every manager likes to think their “culture” is valuable, when the truth is many jobs are better done remotely.

      The pandemic has drastically sped up trends to remote work and flexible schedules that were already under way for at least 10-15 years. Businesses that want to turn back the clock and insist on a rigid “butts in seats” mentality are going to have more and more trouble finding good employees.

  45. Uncle Bob*

    The short version of this letter: “People have different living situations and commutes than I do and I’m mad about it”

    1. Hen*

      But it could also just be “people have different preferences than I do and I’m mad about it” which is just as absurd

  46. Choggy*

    I think the bottom line is that companies are more willing to provide their employees with the flexibility to schedule their in-office/at-home time as they deem workable for them, which is GREAT. This is a benefit for the individual employee, and as long as they are keeping in touch and remaining productive, putting limitations on this flexibility would just lessen the benefit. I can absolutely understand why OPs boss is not backing her on this. Don’t try to control what you have no control over, try to work with it and you may be surprised!

  47. Texan In Exile*

    “the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture. Do others not feel the same? If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?”

    I don’t care about networking. I don’t care about maintaining a strong company culture. So no, I do not feel the same.

    And nope, I don’t really value my “career.” I value doing good work and I value getting paid for doing good work, but I don’t care about having a career. A classmate of mine will be dead in three weeks (probably) from terminal cancer. Two other friends my age died of natural causes in August. I don’t care about career. I care about spending time with the people I love.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Right? I think what the OP is asking is really “why don’t people care about their careers AS MUCH and in the SAME WAY as I do, and please tell me they’re also wrong.”

    2. Maybe I'm Just A Millennial*


      I don’t live to work. I work so that I can do other things with my life.

      1. allathian*

        Same here. Even if the other things are just being able to afford a decent house in the suburbs and a middle-class lifestyle (without the keeping up with the Joneses bit). I definitely work to live rather than live to work.

  48. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    So from the perspective of someone who spent the first half of the pandemic working on a COVID medical unit and is currently going into ER’s regularly I feel the need to point out that we are no where NEAR this pandemic ending. Yes, vaccines are available however 1. not to everyone and 2. not everyone is taking them and these people are dying in both a painful way and alarming rate. LW you are only viewing this through one lense, how it affects you. It is important to refocus this and realize that this isn’t about you. Your peers are making decisions for their own personal safety and the safety of their family (as they should). Frankly posts like this make me very mad because there is both a push to get back to in person operations because it is the status quo but also ignoring the idea that it is not safe for everyone to be around each other. Even this week I have had two co-workers come in with COVID symptoms and be sent home because they tested positive and we had to disinfect the office. So my salty response is maybe to sit back and reflect on what emotion is under your irritation because irritation that others are scared for their safety is wrong.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. But the point would be equally valid even if the other employees simply prefer to WFH, regardless of the state of the pandemic. The LW’s need for socializing at work doesn’t trump other employees’ need to avoid a stressful commute, or their need to be able to focus without constant interruptions from coworkers who want to socialize.

  49. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    Personally, my “excuse” for making use of the hybrid model that my company has approved is that I prefer working from home. I didn’t think I needed an excuse for that any more than I’d need an excuse to add money to my 401k, get a dental cleaning, or take vacation, which are also all benefits my company offers.

    Many people’s first time working remotely was this last year, and now that they’ve gotten a taste for it, they’ve found that they prefer it. That‘s literally it. If it’s ACTUALLY affecting the quality of work, then that may be a reason to pull people back in. But just doing it because you prefer it is both tone deaf and self-centered.

    None of this means people are less serious about their careers, and it’s just so insulting that people think that way. Unless your career is absolutely dependent on face-to-face contact, you can be serious about your career from home.

    Technology is a beautiful thing, and a lot of companies are realizing they can make use of it to insure the majority of their workers are happier. If you’re going to make yourself miserable over this, it honestly may be time for either an attitude change or a job change, just like those of us who were forced back into the office for truly no reason have had to decide if we want to adjust our expectations or start looking for companies that better align with what we’d like.

    1. BeenThere*

      Oh I needed to hear that phrase today “technology is a beautiful thing”. Thanks you for this phrase.

      As an engineer in technology so many of us have put in insane hours getting things working well for everyone at home yet all the media reports on are leaks and the bad apples.

      As for this manager, maybe with that clear lack of emotional intelligence your promotion should be re-evaluated. I’ve worked for too many people like OP and resigned with high pay and better conditions every time. Most of them don’t stay managers for long.

    2. RAM*

      If working from home is affecting their quality of work, then talk to them about the quality of their work. Focus on that, not where they’re doing the work from. I had an employee whose quality dropped immensely once we went to remote work. We had a serious conversation about it and let him know in no uncertain terms that he needed to get back on track ASAP. I didn’t dictate how, I let him come up with the solutions. He has figured it out (he created a dedicated office space, adjusted his hours a bit.. etc) and I have had no issues with him since. If anything, his performance has improved and our relationship has also improved. And.. he’s still remote.

      Point is – focus on the true problem, not on what YOU think is driving the problem. Saying that “people who work remote aren’t as passionate about their careers” is an assumption. However, do try to understand what makes you say that and if there is a true issue – Is someone performing worse than before or than their colleagues who are in the office? Are they not available when you need them to be? If not, then what is driving your statement? If yes, then THAT’S your true issue.. not the fact that they’re remote.

  50. New Yorker*

    I think a lot of commenters may not live in NYC. Like the LW, I’ve been back at the office since July 2020 — long before vaccine mandates, etc. The city seems pretty much back to normal to me. The subways are full (but people are still masked up); vaccine mandates are in place for indoor dining, cultural venues, gyms, etc. Cases are low so I think some people are in a continued denial about being able to safely leave their apartments. I get excuses from certain co-workers at my job; they’re “too scared” to ride the subway to the office, but have no issue flying to a foreign country for fun, or going to the theater. That, to me, is an excuse. Also, even having herd immunity-levels of vaccinated doesn’t mean there is zero risk — I think a lot of people have forgotten that, or need to get accustomed to living with _some_ level of risk.

    1. Zona the Great*

      I understand completely a person not wanting to take risks to go to a place they don’t want to go but would take a risk to go to a place they do want to go. That’s just human nature. I get your argument too but still. I love a road trip. I hate driving to the dentist.

    2. Jack Straw*

      Depending on the country, they may be safer there if most people there are actually heeding the advice of medical professionals vs. areas of the US where the vaccination rate is ridiculously low. Airlines vs. public transit is like comparing apples to dolphins when it comes to cleanliness/disinfection and mandating masks. You’ll get kicked off the Delta flight but no one will remove you from the bus.

    3. Tobias Funke*

      But everyone gets to assess their own personal risk differently. I would sure value being able to spend some of my “risk points” on something enjoyable rather than the drudgery of working in the office. Clearly many other folks feel differently. Neither is right or wrong – what’s wrong is imposing one size fits all rigidity.

    4. TiffIf*

      Frankly, I am more comfortable flying than riding public transit in my area–public transit nominally requires masks but it is not enforced. Flights do enforce mask wearing.

    5. AVP*

      But why does anyone need an “excuse” to not work from the office when it’s an offered benefit that the CEO is fine with? Their real reason is “because I like it but you won’t leave me alone and keep asking” and you’re not hearing that so they’re trying to placate you.

      You need an “excuse” to excuse things that are wrong or incorrect or out of the norm. If the CEO is okay with people working from home, they don’t need one so I can’t imagine why it’s still a topic of conversation for you. They don’t want to be there. It’s not a requirement. That is your answer, please stop asking them.

    6. Metikon*

      That argument of “well they’re doing this, why not also do that?” is flawed in several ways:
      1) flying ONCE is way less risky than taking the subway every day/.
      2) risk budgeting just doesn’t work that way. I can afford to take this (very important and great for my mental health/marriage/etc) risk because I’m NOT taking these other (pointless and frankly performative risks). Think of it like money – I’m already spending $$$ on one thing, might as well spend it on another thing? No. I know I want to spend $$$ on one thing, so I’m not spending it on anything else if I can possibly help it.

    7. Pandemic Blues*

      Every time I have been on public transportation, there are a minimum of 5 people not wearing a mask at all, and even more wearing a mask pushed down. If your coworkers are really living it up, but saying they are too scared to come to the office, well, they would be rare individuals. But I suggest you look into how much you might think everything is totally fine and 100% safe before you count things as an excuse.

      1. New Yorker*

        Everything is “totally fine” where I am. I have literally known ONE PERSON in real life who had Covid (and they recovered). I’m not saying Covid doesn’t exist, but where I am in New York is not high risk anymore. Of course there are always going to be people on public transportation who aren’t wearing a mask, but if I’m wearing a mask it’s still helping me. Again, attaining risk level zero is statistically impossible so it does seem like an excuse to hear people keep saying, “But not enough people are vaccinated” or “But 5 people weren’t wearing a mask.” You will never achieve 100% compliance.

        1. Observer*

          Maybe everything is “totally fine” in your little bubble. It is NOT “totally fine” in New York. It’s a LOT better than it was, but you are seriously in denial if you think NY has no more issues.

          I’m not saying Covid doesn’t exist, but where I am in New York is not high risk anymore.

          That’s such a ridiculous statement that I would never trust your judgement on any risk. I just checked the stats. In Manhattan alone, there are still ~160 NEW cases per day, and 2 deaths per day. That’s miraculous relative to what was. But that’s only happening because of all of the enforced precautions. It’s also absurd to claim that this is not a significant risk.

          The fact that YOU only one person who got Covid is at best irrelevant. It’s also almost certainly untrue, even though you don’t realize it. And it’s also an utterly ridiculous gauge of how serious the situation is, because even if you really have such a narrow circle of people that you know and are incredibly lucky, that does NOT negate the fact that in Manhattan alone, there have been +46K deaths and +168K diagnosed cases of covid. (And given the prevalence of long covid, that is going to have a very, very long trail of effects.)

          1. New Yorker*

            The population of Manhattan is ~ 1.7 million people. 160 new cases/day out of 1.7 million is .00009%. Two deaths per 1.7 million would obviously be even lower, percentage wise. If you think that is significant risk then I don’t know what to tell you — most reasonable people wouldn’t agree.

            1. Pandemic Blues*

              If you are a New Yorker who only knows one person who contracted COVID… I really doubt what you are saying. Either that or you live in a very elite bubble! I know 10 people who died from my job alone. They were not at all people you would think of as traditionally being at-risk of severe illness. And that is just my job (and we do not work in any kind of health care industry, where people were repeatedly exposed). In my social circles, I know even more people who became ill or passed awaay.

              You are right that we will never have 100% compliance, but everything is far from hunky dory. I’m not sure where you are getting the number 160 for new COVID cases in NYC (aside from totally making it up) because the City’s dashboard lists the COVID cases for yesterday at over 1,000. We have cops protesting and shutting down bridges because they don’t want to get vaccinated. Things are better than they were in some ways, but the reality is people are being urged to just get used to lots of people getting sick all the time.

              1. Katefish*

                Also in NY…I personally know 3 people who died of COVID and many more who tested positive, including those with long COVID. I think you’re the outlier if you live here and don’t know multiple people deeply impacted by the virus. Yes, rates are down today – but we fought hard for that victory.

              2. Observer*

                I was using one of the data dashboards. And I narrowed it down to Manhattan, not the whole city. According to the NYT, the 7 day average for the entire city was 998.

                Miles better than the beginning of the year, but substantially higher than the summer. So, still a battle.

            2. rototiller*

              I mean, there’s also those who aren’t thinking about the risk of us as individuals getting sick, but about the risk of prolonging the pandemic. I also live in a well-vaccinated urban area, and I don’t have kids or complicating conditions. I’m not really worried about getting seriously ill myself. But I can still carry the virus, and every time I go to the store or ride public transportation I’m raising the chance that I’ll be exposed or expose others, and that they’ll expose others in turn, and so on. The more that happens, the more the virus stays circulating, mutating, and spreading to the unvaccinated. The way this thing ends is by *everyone* limiting their risky behavior.

            3. Ismonie*

              You put the decimal point in the wrong place. That’s actually .009%. But that’s not total cases, it’s new detected cases.

            4. Observer*

              I know what the population is. The only reason that the numbers are so low is because of the mix of precautions being taken. The fact that despite these precautions this is happening means that we are nowhere near close to the end of this thing.

              Your judgement is especially suspect because you clearly have no idea of what is going on. How you managed to know exactly ONE person with covid in all this time is an interesting question. I cannot think of any answer that includes any actual factual knowledge. Why would I trust your assessment?

        2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          You don’t speak for all of New York and your utter lack of sympathy for the many of us who’ve been sick, who’ve lost people, who are still losing people and dealing with the aftereffects and the trama is honestly shocking.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Is it though? I mean, this level of callousness has been on full display the entire pandemic, so when I see comments like that, I’m not remotely surprised.

    8. Alice*

      How much lower is low?
      I just checked the CDC site now:
      New York County (Manhattan): substantial transmission
      Kings County (Brooklyn): high transmission
      Queens County: substantial
      Bronx County: high
      Richmond County (Staten Island): high
      I am glad that cases are low in your social circle. But we all have to think beyond our personal experiences.

    9. bee*

      I’m also a New Yorker and I do think this is a factor. Things were ~so~ apocalyptic here early last year that it’s definitely borked my Concern-O-Meter and I have trouble remembering that people’s concerns are valid, especially when we’ve been doing the new normal for what feels like quite a while now. This isn’t to say that I think the OP is right! But I think it’s playing in to why she feels the way she does, and why other people’s reasoning can feel like excuses (even though they aren’t).

      1. New Yorker*

        Yeah, unless you were living here last spring, I think few people can truly understand how all encompassing it was and how dire it felt. (Not saying it hasn’t been tough for other people/places.) New Yorkers pride themselves in their resilience — so now that it seems like we’ve made it to the other side, we’re getting back to normal. We’re going about our business; the rest of the country isn’t at that point yet. But just as people are saying to try to see things through a more risk averse person’s eyes; those commenters should consider that not every person is still in a place (literally and figuratively) where they feel “getting back to normal” isn’t safe.

        1. Observer*

          You are wrong on a number of counts. Including the fact that it is BECAUSE we remember just how bad it was, that many of us do not want to do anything that could bring us close to that.

          Also, a lot of us know very well that although it’s nowhere near as bad as it was, it is NOT all better. And we really don’t like people who think they are safe passing judgement on those of use who see it differently.

          1. New Yorker*

            By the same token people who don’t think it’s safe shouldn’t pass judgement on those who feel it is. In fact, how about stop being judgy altogether?

            1. Software Dev*

              Why—shouldn’t they? If someone told me “driving without a seatbelt is safe”, I would judge them. This a weird statement to make. You’re allowed to decide their judgement is flawed and you disagree, but flat out telling them they shouldn’t judge you is a—strange response.

        2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          It’s great that you feel safe. I mean that earnestly. I am glad you do.

          It’s not great that you and the LW think that anyone who doesn’t feel safe is being unreasonable and unprofessional.

          You are not the sole arbiter of people’s comfort levels. Not even as a New Yorker. We’re not a monolith and you are not the head of the New York Leviathan.

    10. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Or they just prefer to work from home, which doesn’t need an excuse it the workplace’s policy allows. And, since WFH and hybrid jobs are becoming so common, I am betting that many of the folks you are talking about would just get new jobs that met their needs if forced to go to work. Could be risk aversion, could be risk aversion+liking WFH, could be just liking WFH. Just let people work in the environments and ways they like and quit judging the whys

    11. Observer*

      I think a lot of commenters may not live in NYC.

      I live in NYC. A number of other commenters have explicitly mentioned that they live in or work in NYC.

      The city seems pretty much back to normal to me.

      No, it’s not. It’s a lot closer to normal than it was. But NOT back to normal.

      or need to get accustomed to living with _some_ level of risk.

      And why should they accept that level of risk just to fulfill someone’s desire to spend time with people at work? There is nothing that is completely risk free. But that balancing act should not have to include checking off arbitrary boxes.

    12. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      If I’m going to face my fear of the subway, why is it more moral of me to do so and come sit in the office so YOU feel better, than to go out to a show one night?

      1. New Yorker*

        No one said anything about morals. But if someone tells me they’re too scared to take the subway to work but have no problem taking it somewhere that’s not work then I do question whether it’s really about fear, or just not wanting to go into the office.

        Frankly I don’t care if someone comes to the office or not; it doesn’t make me feel better one way or the other (although it makes it easier get actual work done) — just be honest about the reasons.

        1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          It’s not all or nothing though. Being willing to take two risky-feeling rides in a month to do a thing you want to do is not the same as being willing to take ten risky-feeling rides a week to do something with no valid work need, because other people “want to network in person”.

    13. J.B.*

      My reason for working mostly from home is my kid. Specifically my younger child who had anxiety before covid, may be diagnosed with ADHD, and was completely traumatized by the experience and by a teacher who hated her guts. Being home means she can come off the bus and decompress from the school day. I can work just fine but don’t need to pay for after school. My colleagues do not and will not know this.

  51. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    No, I hope we never go back. Yes, I care about my career. I just got thanks and kudos from two levels up for going above and beyond yesterday…from my house.
    I’ve never had the opportunity to work from home before. It was determined that my job was not possible off site.
    Covid proved that wrong.
    The CEO wants to return to pre Covid. He has very traditional ideas. He does not like remote work. But he is accepting that our wants have changed, technology has changed, that the company spent a lot of money on that technology and people are using that technology. So has compromised. There are official rules and we follow them. Just as your group does.
    You just don’t like them. I’m sorry about that.
    In your supervisory role, you can create requirements for your staff. Just like you can say, “you have to to be at your desk by 8,” you can say, “we all need to be here on Tuesdays for X,” if you have a business reason.

  52. Zona the Great*

    I have no kids, no friends (by choice), no partner, no real hobbies beyond reading and gardening. I have no real reason not to go to the office and no reason to go to the office. So I choose home. Some of your employees just don’t want to come in. No excuse. Just….don’t. That is just as valid. The only reason I would give you as my boss would be, “I just don’t wanna”.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am in a similar situation (kids out of the house living on their own, I am also living on my own) in that I have no real reason not to go to the office. I was considering a job earlier this year where I’d have to go in every day. Seemed fine with me at first (after all, I’d been doing it for my entire career until last year), but when I added up the time spent commuting, the gas, the wear and tear on my car, how much of what I do on my free time I would have to give up because I’d be spending this time sitting in traffic instead… I’ll be frank, I found myself hoping for a rejection from that place. (Which I did in fact receive, to my massive relief.)

      I’ve worked on distributed teams on and off since 2000, and never had a problem building a working relationship with people living several states away whom I’d never met. You just work together to get things done, and the rapport and the team culture will follow. My opinion is that no amount of happy hours and team-building exercises will ever be as successful in building relationships inside a team as just the act of working together does.

  53. Mia*

    People like this make me mad. I’m immune-compromised, and this pandemic has shown that people can’t be trusted to do the right thing (i.e. not lie about their vaccine status, actually get the vaccine, mask up). I can do my job just fine from home and I’m safer that way. We’re still in a pandemic!

    1. Hen*

      And the thing is, I bet the OP would make allowances for sick people (of which I am one). But the big thing is- we shouldn’t have to disclose our health histories to someone so that they stop giving us a hard time about where we work. I know if my boss knew about my health issues he’d make all sorts of ableist inferences, so I’m glad our policy is pretty much do what you want wrt wfh.

      1. Mia*

        The other thing is that I’m in a different location than my team. So when I did go into the office pre-pandemic I would be on Teams with them all day anyway. I can do that just as well from home, where I can sit in sweatpants and don’t have to commute.

  54. CommanderBanana*

    OP, this letter is very much me-me-me. You don’t seem to be thinking of your direct reports and what their needs are at all, just that you like being around people in the office and so why doesn’t everyone come back?

  55. Alice*

    OP, I missed the part where you explain what you are doing to convince your direct reports that it is safe and beneficial to come in.
    Have you checked on the ventilation system? Set up a safe system for eating lunch? Have you identified anything tangible in terms of team-building or networking that could be done in person and can’t be done remotely?

  56. Evonon*

    My office was in person since May 2020 (Alison published my letter about being scared to return) and when I tell you I still feel resentful down to my CORE I mean it. I work with one other person and the reason we had to come back is because our grand boss prefers people in office. The grand boss hasn’t set foot in our office since last year. So I had to drive to work everyday, into a 20 floor office building, hop in a tiny elevator, and for what, to sit at my desk and schedule zoom meetings?

    I’m finally leaving for grad school next year but I would not be pulling stunts that affect people’s well-being for my personal work preference in a time where people are resigning left right and center

      1. Evonon*

        That’s a great way to put it! I’m the lowest on the totem pole and so I’m the only person without an office so if I want to meet I have to put on a mask and sit far apart…so it’s more giving me more mask acne than human interaction

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          This company is ridiculous…

          Side note, please don’t use “totem pole” to denote hierarchy. It’s inaccurate and rooted in a misunderstanding of the tradition.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, our director’s reasoning is that our members ‘expect to see us in the office,’ so we’re being pulled back because a random person may visit on a random day and needs to see a body in the office if they’re wandering around?

      1. Evonon*

        Exactly and who would randomly pop by in a pandemic anyway? We have in person meetings now and the amount of prep is nuts! Its always so frustrating when decisions are made on “what ifs”; these are human beings not umbrellas you tote along on a cloudy day!

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Maybe someday, someone in the future will create a device that will allow individuals to plan occurrences that involve multiple people. Alas, the technology was lost with the Mayans. It was called “calendar.” People would mark it with information, like the phases of the sun or when the office was open for visitors. Truly a loss to mankind.

        1. Evonon*

          I know now we lie in wait with shaking limbs for their arrival. We know not what they want nor the time they will beseige us, but we will be there.

          But seriously Google calendar exists

  57. Allornone*

    Agreed. I have no kids and being stuck at home alone was brutal (my significant other has a job that is impossible to do from home, so I was alone mostly all the time). Terrible for my mental health, my productivity, everything. I’m just not someone who should be working from him. I think I was even starting to get on my cat’s nerves (I’m sure poor Catsby wondered if he’d ever get some time to himself again). My office has mostly returned to work now (with mandatory weekly covid testing, mask mandates in all common areas, and zoom meetings still a preferred norm), and I’m grateful for myself, but even more grateful that my organization still works to meet individual employee’s needs. Heck, our head of HR is a widow taking care of two young children. She’s almost never in the office nowadays (she does work from home very well and no one has ever had an issue reaching her). Then there’s my sister’s best friend who is recently divorced with a severely immunocompromised four-year-old child, so she absolutely can’t risk heading to the office right now and my sister herself only started going back part-time when her kids went back to school (one kid just old enough to be vaccinated, the other is still ten, so hopefully, soon). Different strokes for different folks. And if the only thing good that comes from this whole dang mess of a pandemic is that workplaces become more flexible and receptive to their employee’s needs when within reason, then that’s an important cultural shift.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      This is roughly where I land also. I live alone, went back to five days a week in the office as a matter of personal preference last May, and am only starting to realize how really rough lockdown isolation was on my mental state (oh, that was suicidal ideation happening there? yeah, okay, glad that’s going away) and how much better I’m finding it to work from my office and teach in-person (with all appropriate precautions; also, students may join class online for any reason and I don’t even ask — it’s settled into roughly half-and-half and that’s been working fine).

      But I am enormously grateful that my department is giving people CHOICES about where and how they prefer to work and interact, and I think that’s absolutely the way things should be. Do I get most of my social interaction at work presently? Yeah, because I don’t feel right doing the kinds of in-person social stuff that I enjoy with the pandemic still raging. But do I think my colleagues have any kind of duty to overrule their own needs and preferences to feed my desire (arguably need!) for social interaction? Heck no. OP, that’s where you’ve gone off the rails and need to check yourself pretty hard.

  58. Nora*

    I am also a single, child-free, millennial who lives in a tiny urban apartment. I hate working from home, I think it sucks and I’m not good at it, completely unproductive, and I wish I could safely stop. But everything said here is completely inappropriate. I considered writing something long and probably rude but I’ll leave it at this – this global catastrophe is nowhere close to over, and your coworkers and employees are not making excuses, they are trying to survive. Come back when this country can go a single day without someone dying of COVID and an hour without a new case, and then you can start thinking about what your ideal office should look like going forward.

  59. Paris Geller*

    I would never take a fully remote job because I personally like going to a workplace and having a separation of home and work. HOWEVER, that is my preference. It doesn’t mean I value my career or I’m a better worker than anyone who decides to stay fully remote.

    OP, I mean this as kindly as I can — you’re wrong. It’s fine that you value being in the office (I do too, as mentioned above!), but there’s no reason to be upset your coworkers don’t feel the same. People have different levels of risk tolerance and concerns with their health for a myriad of reasons depending on pre-existing conditions, family members, past experiences, etc. Even taking the pandemic out of consideration, if there’s no reason for your coworkers to return to the office and it’s not required, then. . . why is it such a big deal to you? It’s interesting that you do use generation signifiers because I personally think this is a very old-school way of thinking. You seem to think people should work in the office because that’s the way it’s always been done. I do agree with Alison’s point that yes, sometimes there are work related reasons for wanting people in the office, but you didn’t cite those.

    Working from home isn’t an excuse, and I encourage you to adjust your attitude.

  60. Bookworm*

    Another millennial here: NO! Whatever for? You don’t cite any reason at all for requiring people to return. The networking, office atmosphere, etc. didn’t work for a lot of people and there’s no reason to make people return to a time and culture that very much wasn’t working for so many for a wide range of reasons.

    This feels nothing more like an attempt to micromanage without a better reason as to why you need people in the office. Some positions very much do need a people to physically work together but there’s nothing in your letter that seems to show that’s your situation.

    And as many said: the pandemic is not over. It’s not just about the actual COVID but that a lot of us are traumatized. Not everyone is ready to return. Some may never be.

  61. Anon for this*

    Here’s the thing. I learned that my employer really just wants Covid to go away. They wanted it to go away back in July 2020 and in November of 2020 and in June 2021 and in fact every single month of this pandemic and they are continually frustrated that it is not going away. I have learned that my employer is really good at changing the goalposts of what is needed to employ the most basic of safety measures. I have learned that my employer, in fact, does not care about my health and safety. They spent a lot of time assuring us that as long as we got vaccinated there would be no breakthrough cases (ha). They spent a lot of time us telling us that well, if wearing a mask made us feel safer, we could wear one but they weren’t forcing anyone to do that, managing to imply that we were all paranoid.

    So my level of trust in my employer is not real high right now.

    But more importantly, I have spent 17+ months learning that I could do my job just as well, if not better from home. I learned that my users don’t care from where I am working as long as their needs are met. I learned that I am more productive without all the side chat and the gossip and the stupid office stuff like Joaquin refusing to accept that you shouldn’t nuke fish in the microwave. I learned that there were other ways to network and connect and that we have adapted.

    So when my employer urges us to all start coming in every day, I’m not real happy about it.

    1. AVP*

      Soooo much of this is people saying “I really wish Covid didn’t happen and we’re all going to go back to October 2019, that was great!” Welp, even if the pandemic ends or we get used to it and move on, it still happened and people learned things and changed, you can’t undo that.

    2. too many too soon*

      Most of the pre-pandemic in-person ‘networkers’ at my workplace are the same people who spent most of their workdays wandering around to avoid their own work, while collecting gossip and wasting other people’s time.

  62. Tuesday*

    People don’t need “excuses” not to come back. The CEO says it’s fine to do what they want. I think you need to realize that they’re not doing anything wrong – they’re just making different choices than you.

  63. I don’t post often*

    Just came here to say “Thanks!” For mentioning children getting quarantined due to exposure at school as a reason parents should work from home. It’s upsetting to know my child has been exposed. But then also how do we juggle work and no childcare? It’s been a question in our house. We are fortunate- no exposures (yet). But our back up options are few when it does happen.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      We’ve been hit by this huge at my office (essential but largely remote, about 20% onsite time required for essential functions, at reduced capacity, masks, etc). People constantly needing to call out because their kids are quarantined, or quarantined themselves because their kids brought a cold home. We are not anywhere near Normal yet.

      I had covid back in December and was quarantined for 10 days then had to quarantine my kids for an additional 2 weeks due to their exposure to me. Luckily they never got sick, but there went basically an entire month of going into work (or anywhere). I actually worked near full-time hours despite being home with them and sick myself, because of telework options. Telework is enabling us to keep going, not standing in the way.

  64. Justin*

    I should also mention that I really didn’t want to return to work (mostly for reasons other than COVID), and it’s actually been kind of okay. Everyone is masked on the subway and there aren’t any crowds in the office, and it’s vaccine mandated. Since a lot of folks aren’t here still, it’s boring, mostly. But boring is good because I don’t actually like my coworkers. But that is just my own experience. And this is yours. Let others handle it their own way, as they are being instructed to do.

  65. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

    I’m an essential worker, and we went back to the office FT all the way back at the beginning of the year. At my office, everyone works with their doors shut and nobody talks to each other. I might as well be working from home except I have to commute here every day and wear nice clothes. OP, even if people were back in the office right now, you STILL might not get the office socializing that you’re looking for because there’s still a pandemic happening. My secretary’s husband is dying of cancer, and you can bet I don’t casually chat with her for the sake of “morale” even though we’re both vaccinated and we wear masks. It just isn’t worth the risk, however small, that something would happen to her husband. Even if everyone came back FT, the in-office culture may be just as disappointing to you as what you have now.

  66. Colette*

    I think this letter really illustrates how, for some people, being in the office is better than being at home – and for others, being at home is better. I understand wanting to go back to having people in the office. Hallway conversations, dropping by someone’s desk to get an answer instead of having to track them down, a change of scenery, not having to clean the bathroom, stepping out at lunch to get lunch, having to put on actual clothes – there are a lot of nice things about working from the office.

    But even if everyone went back to the office, it wouldn’t be like it was before the pandemic. Piling 20 people into a conference room built for 10 is over in all workplaces that care about their employees’ health. Crowded cafeterias, group lunches, huddling with a coworker over a monitor – none of those are a good idea in a pandemic.

    And spending less time and money commuting and taking fewer days off to deal with life stuff is a significant benefit that many of us don’t want to give up.

    Pre-pandemic, I was getting some minor virus or another about once a month – and so was everyone on my team. During the pandemic, I’ve taken 2 sick days (both for vaccine side effects). There are lots of reasons why people want to work from home.

    And frankly, I think a lot of people/businesses will never go back to a pre-COVID schedule. That ship has sailed.

    1. Justin*

      Yes. We need to talk about what it all looks like going forward. There is no “back” (nor will there likely be a day with zero covid). There is something new that COULD be much better, and is at companies that have learned how to be more flexibile.

      There are some who just want the familiar back and it’s gone, for bad reasons and for good ones.

    2. too many too soon*

      I want to go back to summers off, riding bikes with neighborhood kids all day, watching Saturday morning cartoons. Not happening either.

  67. SpaceySteph*

    There’s 2 strands here.
    The first is that we are still in a pandemic, as Alison covers very well. The risk is not passed. Not for people with small kids at home, too young to be vaccinated (and you can say that the risk of illness/death for young kids is low, but it doesn’t matter how good the odds are if YOUR baby is on the wrong side of them). Not for people who are immune compromised, or have elderly relatives/at risk individuals they want to visit safety or need to care for. This pandemic is NOT over, no matter how much you want to pretend it is.

    The second is that yes, people did come to work 5 days a week before because it was what was done and they didn’t consider the alternative. Now that they’ve seen the other side they realize they prefer it. Some people never want to go back to the office, have found better work/life balance, regained wasted commute time, enjoy putting in that load of laundry on a short break then going back to work. We’re going to need to adapt and evolve and be really clear about what jobs actually require face time and managers who can’t do this will lose otherwise good employees.

  68. Clinically extremely vulnerable*

    I do recognise that things have changed for you OP, and that work isn’t the place it was for you, and that’s hard. But if I had a supervisor who felt the same way, their needs for social interaction and normality wouldn’t be high enough up there on the good old Maslow hierarchy for me to risk my life for.

    If I’d wanted a job where my life was on the line, I’d have followed my father into the police service.

    My reasons for not visiting the office aren’t “excuses”, they are a matter of life and death.

  69. Tessie Mae*

    Well, OP did say “I am really struggling to understand people’s attitudes towards coming back to the office.”

    Hopefully, Alison’s answer plus the comments will help OP to understand others’ attitudes. No, others do not feel the same as OP, for a myriad of reasons. This is not a One Size Fits All situation–at least OP’s CEO and boss realize that.

  70. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    Single, childless, well-off, highly-educated, young and fit with a high-paid managerial job and an NYC apartment (my guess is Manhattan below 96th or near BK) ​and two healthy parents with a big house upstate you can go stay in. That’s… a very particular slice of America. One I know intimately. They don’t lack empathy – far from it – but they do lack a certain amount of life experience or perspective.

    It’s hard to imagine the concerns of someone sharing their apartment with dependent elderly parents, or trying to raise kids in a 1br, or commuting in two hours each way from way out on LI, or trying to find daycare on less than six figures, or taking the train from the Bronx with aging knees, if that doesn’t describe even one single person you know.

  71. cactus lady*

    I (an elder millenial) was recently complaining to my dad (a boomer) that we are being made to return to the office because it makes the highers-up feel better to see us working from offices, I guess? My dad was like, “why do they care if you are going into the office if you’re getting your work done?” And proceeded to talk about managing remote employees in the 90s and how it was fine if you knew how to manage. This certainly isn’t a generational thing.

    I know not every job can be done remotely, but for those of us who have been able to do our regular work (and in my team’s case, way more) while working from home, I have yet to hear a compelling reason to have to go back into the office regularly.

    1. Nicki Name*

      In surveys it keeps coming up as a management vs. non-management thing. Managers are much more likely to want employees in the office (though obviously they’re not unified, as OP’s upper management is fine with people staying remote) and that tends to start looking like a generational thing because managers will skew older.

      1. cactus lady*

        I think it really boils down to “do you know how to do your job at home?” and a lot of managers don’t know how to manage people unless they’re physically there. I’m a manager and I have done a TON of research and trial/error on remote managing techniques. When you’re an individual contributor, it’s (comparatively) easy to know if you’ve done task X. When you’re managing other people to do task X, it can be more difficult to assess whether task X has been done correctly. It’s not impossible, but it does require letting go of some ideas of how managing works.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          I would love to see Alison do an interview with you for AAM in which you discuss what you’ve learned about remote management! That would be amazingly great, if both of you are up for it. I know I would learn a lot.

          1. cactus lady*

            I actually think it makes managing easier because you only have to deal with work output and not the “performance” of working. I know managers who get very upset if their employee is does a load of laundry or has the plumber come during working hours, because “if we were in the office you wouldn’t be doing that!” But I think it distracts from the point – are they getting their work done? Are they doing it well? If they are, who cares?

            (Note that the management of my company doesn’t see it this way and has not been supportive of remote managers – everything I’ve learned has been my own research and trial/error.)

  72. Momma Bear*

    What I felt from the letter was that OP was feeling lonely and that one size should fit all. There seemed to be some frustration in what they perceived as the limitations of the work from home guidance and lack of managerial support.

    I think what OP needs to do is have a specific meeting with their manager to discuss the office schedule, how to manage people OP can’t see, and how to handle communication with their manager.

    It is important that people be where you think they will be, not only for scheduling but for managerial oversight. If someone is off the clock and misses a meeting, that’s one thing. If someone is supposed to be WFH and is not available, that is another thing. I’ve had FT, PT and zero time WFH options and they all have pros and cons. That said, at every job I had some kind of schedule or accountability. OP is not out of line to want people to be less random and should approach that from a business standpoint (we can have x meetings on y day) vs “I want to spend time with her.”

    We are largely back in the office and have had a couple of cases of COVID and one community transmission. It’s still very tenuous in a lot of places and OP needs to understand that even if they are not privy to everyone’s situation, there are a lot of reasons someone might want or need to be home. I think OP needs to look at it as less “about me” and more “what’s good for the business?”

  73. Anon for today*

    I really really do not like this OP. As someone with an invisible disability who is high risk even with the vaccine, I want to scream at them. I don’t share my disability with co-workers or manager because there is not a need for them to know my private information. If faced with the justification the OP provided, it would take everything in me NOT to unleash a loud tirade or profane anger. I am so tired of this type of dismissive attitude. Beyond fatigued. If someone took away my ability to judge for myself the risks I’m willing to take, I’m scared that in my pandemic fatigue, I really would loose my ability to remain calm and professional.

    If I had to work with this OP, I would be at the mercy of everyone’s else hygiene habits and the companies willingness to enforce safety habits. I am not willing to do this to make OP “feel” better or more in control of OP’s direct reports. Super entitled and selfish. This feels like a power play and a way to fan OP’s ego of being a boss. Pre-COVID, I’d play the game and bite my tongue and get along. Now, if this were enforced, I’d rage quit because there is no business justification. Even if there were “justification,” I’d still quit and go somewhere I’d be protected.

  74. Shiba Dad*

    ideally, I would want everyone in the office three days a week

    Why three days and not five? Or two? Why is three ideal?

    Not to pile on, but it seems like OP thinks that their way is the only way. That’s not going to serve OP well in their career.

  75. I need cheesecake*

    If you want to spend time with your manager why don’t you arrange to do that virtually?

    I go into the office a bit now and I like seeing colleagues but it is not good for my productivity.

  76. Hills to Die On*

    We want to wear fuzzy socks and no bra, no makeup and work on our couches. Leave us alone. ;)
    What about getting your social needs met elsewhere? Or a networking group that wants to meet in person? So many ways for a win/win that don’t require coming into the office.

  77. Parker*

    What I hear from OP is that she wants me to spend hours every week commuting so she can waste MORE of my time in the office chatting. No thank you!

  78. twocents*

    if you didn’t move outside of commuting distance and you were previously expected to come to the office five days a week, why are you acting like coming in for even one day is “too much”?

    The fact that my employer used to needlessly waste 1.5-2 hours of my life in commute time every day, five days a week, and I got used to that, is not a compelling reason to make me continue to be on board with that.

    1. Emac*

      I know, right? OP, outside of commuting distance now means more than the 1 minutes it takes me to get to the home office. Get used to it.

  79. Metikon*

    Does the OP not understand that part of the reason they were lucky enough to not get sick when they were unvaccinated and working from the office is because few people were there? And that the more people come back, the higher the risk gets?

  80. You Are Your Own Manager*

    The line “Selfishly, I want her to come to the office so that I can spend some time with her…” makes this entire letter boil down to what my kids would call “a you problem”.

    You want what you want, and you want everyone else to want what you want, but that’s not how the world works.

    “I still think the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture. Do others not feel the same?” – No, many others in fact do not feel the same. There are many, many examples of great networks, amazing teams, and strong company culture that have zero in-office presence.

    “If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?” What does my physical location have to do with my experience, my expertise, or the value I place on my career? (Zero is the answer here.)

    “With lack of guidance from leadership and no authority to change the situation, what can I do to make sense of all this and stay happy at work?” To make sense of it, please try to empathize with others and truly understand that you have a specific perspective and set of preferences, and they are not shared by many of the people with whom you work. Can you stay happy at work given that? Only you can decide, but if you keep trying to change others to make them fit your mold it’s going to be an uphill battle.

  81. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

    My days of being exhausted by “butts in seats is the only important measure of professionalism!” are coming to a middle, I guess.

  82. LMB*

    Covid safety-wise, vaccinated people with young children may not want to return for fear of being exposed and getting an asymptomatic infection they pass on to their kids (or they may be immunocompromised, have at risk family members, etc). This is also an unusually bad year for other infections going around childcare centers and schools, so they may not want to add to that by catching (or spreading) whatever their coworkers happen to have. Otherwise, it has been a long time since people left the office. Lives have changed in any number of ways. People may not be “set up” (logistically or mentally) to jump back into that lifestyle after spending so long adapting to working from home. Your boss is an example of this—she has no experience commuting and being in the office as a parent, and she probably worked really hard to establish her wfh situation with a new baby. As others have noted, for a lot of people there just doesn’t seem to be a work related reason to go back. Personally my job has always been at least 80% conference calls—there’s no real reason to go back to taking those from the office especially since any day I go in there may or may not be others around to interact with.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I also want my coworkers with kids to stay home! EVERY YEAR a horrible, gnarly sinus/respiratory virus would make the rounds of our office exactly when my coworkers’ kids went back to preschool or daycare. I finally work on a team where no one has young kids and it’s been really nice to not spend the first three weeks of every September recovering from bronchitis for the first time in years.

  83. Binky*

    The one suggestion I think you can make to your direct reports would be that IF they choose to come in, it would be great to try to coordinate that so you can all overlap. Because, I agree if you’re never there the same days you might as well never come in.

    1. sofar*

      I’m the opposite. I LOOOOOVE going to the office and having nobody I work with directly anywhere near me to sap my energy. I love deciding, know what? I’m going to go get coffee from the place down the street and NOT have anyone see me walking out and ask me “one quick thing.” I love staring out the window at our view in blissful silence. Everyone else can stay home, I will work alone in our largely abandoned office space.

  84. Tech writer by day*

    ‘I still think the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture.” Sounds a lot like the vague reasons so many companies switched to open offices. Then guess what: people started buying earbuds and gadgets to try to have some semblance of privacy. And people like me quit since we simply cannot get our work done in that environment.

    1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I can honestly say the team I work for actively ignored each other while in office. After the shut down and most of us taking work from home, we actually communicate more. Not just work stuff, but Hey How’s It Going? type stuff. Boss is easy to reach via Teams then he ever was in the office. I have a bigger ability to reach out to members in other departments via Teams and network now then when we were in office.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        The teams that were having trouble collaborating are still having trouble collaborating because had nothing to do with being in or out of the office, it had to do with the personalities involved, turf wars, information hoarding, etc. The teams that were working well together continued working well together remotely.

    2. Really?*

      Anytime I read that, it’s a warning flag to me.
      Networking, team building and company culture have always equaled YOUR LIFE IS YOUR WORK to me.

      1. Mannequin*

        OMG, I helped raise my niece, and I remember being sick all the damn time once she started kindergarten. Right? “Company culture” is one of those buzz phrases that just puts my shoulders around my ears.

    3. Anonym*

      Ohh, yeah. I have a tight knit team that got moved from offices/cubicles to a full, hotdesking open office a few years ago. Spontaneous collaboration went way down. You can’t have the same level of discussion and interaction, unless you want to be a real jerk to the others around you! Work from home hasn’t reduced our interaction, and us peons have been more productive. I will not ever go back to full time in office. What a waste of my brief and only life…

      Worth noting that by the time my company rolled out the open office, its benefits had already been soundly disproved by research. It just saved them a bunch of money on real estate.

      “I feel like it should be this way” is not sound basis for a business decision. It’s not any more sound for staffing logistics.

    4. NYC Grunt*

      Agreed. I shared an office with a very compatible colleague (meaning we had zero conflicts about the thermostat, we had a mutual understanding that while we did care about each other’s lives, we did not feel obligated to chat all day long, there was no clock watching, none of the typical conflicts that people often have with their officemates; this was easily the most peaceful and congenial office environment I’d ever been in). Our office was located in another part of the building and Director decided to move everyone doing similar work to an open bullpen where he could look out over his fiefdom with great satisfaction over how he’d finally managed to break everyone’s spirits. We are forbidden to wear earbuds because the building might catch fire and we’ll burn to a crisp if we can’t hear the blaring fire alarm. *massive eyeroll* Our director is also a clean desk freak, so we are also not allowed to have any personal or decorative items on our desks. No privacy screens to keep people from creeping behind us either. Not even a plant is allowed. This is all with the same employer and same leadership, btw.

      And so former officemate and I went from our very peaceful coexistence to listening to our colleagues squawking and clucking over silly things, and coping with the unspoken pressure to socialize with everyone. While I genuinely care about my colleagues and understand that keeping us all in one area makes logistical sense, this bullpen setup has actually diminished productivity what with our immediate manager micromanaging us, colleagues all chatting and arguing, and dear god, the office politics. It can hardly be a surprise to our leadership that treating their support staff like machines and cutting off every attempt to preserve a little privacy, emotional space, and signs of our humanity while a virus ravages the world has seriously eroded any desire to return to the office. Very Large Employer just thinks “the office is a valuable place for networking, team building, and maintaining a strong company culture” and doesn’t want to deal with the inevitable “bUt iT’s noT FaIR” whining from those who want to go back to the office. I simply don’t see the up side of forcing employees to return to in-person working.

  85. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I’m Gen X. I’ve been in the work force for nearly 35 years, spent a lot of those years working multiple jobs. I’ve worked retail, early childhood education, data entry, warehouse. You name it. Never had any down time of more then 2-3 weeks until the Pandemic shut everything down. Did not have internet at home prior but got it specifically for Work From Home. Never understand or had a chance to actually have a work life balance until WFH became a real thing. There is very little chance I will ever go back to the office for anything other than what absolutely can’t be done from home. Sick kids? I don’t have to use PTO. Plumber/electrician/handyman/cable guy scheduled to come by sometime before or after noon? Don’t have to use PTO or rearrange my schedule. Dog needs let out? I step away from the computer for 2 seconds. I no longer have a commute. I can use my breaks for quick errands or house/yard work. Or even chatting with the neighbors. Despite all the bad things that 2020 brought, it also gave me my best life due to WFH. Coworkers can phone, text, email, or Teams me (both chat or video) if they need me or are just lonely during the work day. Now that our eyes are open to what life can be, most of us aren’t willing to go sit in drab, cold, lifeless cubicles for no legit reason all day.

    1. Alex*

      “Now that our eyes are open to what life can be, most of us aren’t willing to go sit in drab, cold, lifeless cubicles for no legit reason all day.”
      YESSSS thiss 100%.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        When I opened up the box of desk toys, pithy sayings pictures, and other knick knacks that I had all over my desk to just deal with 8 1/2 hours of no windows or natural light 5 days a week, it shocked me. My WFH set up is next to the window with a bird bath in front of it, a Yoga ball chair (I’m adhd so i tend to bounce like Tiger), a pic of Grandma, and 2 fidget toys. I had all these other knick knacks and pics and stuff that got donated to good will.

  86. generic_username*

    I recently was informed that I was exposed to COVID at work. In the time between my exposure and the notification, I met my friend’s new baby. Thankfully I tested negative and never developed symptoms, but it mildly infuriates me that I was exposed because the leader of our organization thinks we should be sitting at a desk in our offices once a week (and no other reason!). Unless you have a valid work-related reason to require people to come in, I’d not

  87. please think once before speaking*

    Also “I started coming back in and it was fine” – do you know that, letter writer? Do you know that, for sure? You can be absolutely certain (I assume you must have been testing every three days or so) that you never picked up COVID while coming in to work, and so you know for sure that you never passed it on to someone else (outside your office, on the commute, among people not lucky enough to have your access to contact tracing)? You’re able to say with complete confidence that you didn’t inadvertently harm someone else in your zeal to …. do work from a different space than your home?

  88. Bernice Clifton*

    LW, is it possible that you’re semi-projecting here? I prefer to work in an office myself, but I don’t see it as a threat to my choice or preference if other people would rather work at home.

    It’s sort of like when someone gets angry and defensive when they hear someone say, “I never want kids/a big wedding/ a pet cat/to ever move out of my hometown” as though they are hearing, “There’s something wrong if you want that.”

  89. Really?*

    This has big “beer run boss” energy written all over it.
    The idea that your need for socialization means your employees need to come to the office to appease you, is disheartening. Particularly as your higher ups have stated otherwise; why are you different from everyone else?

    My team has been remote for nearly two years and our engagement has actually INCREASED. People are happy and productive and are communicating with each other, moreso than if they were in an office cubicle.

    I, as an older millennial and a VP, wish you the best in growing up.

  90. Prefer my pets*

    Aside from everything else mentioned (pandemic is most certainly nowhere close to over, commuting is expensive in both time & money, etc), the very fact that OP said they missed the start-up culture & socializing screams to me that there are a heck of a lot of people who prefer to be out of the office to avoid the endless micro aggressions (& possibly not so low key if OP is representative) of not being young, white cis-het, rich male.

    If you want to work at a bro-y start up where everyone looks & acts like you, public safety & social responsibility are for losers, and you can have a beer fridge, go work for one and leave your poor subordinates to someone with some empathy.

    (Yeah, this may have struck a nerve.)

  91. Eastcoastanon*

    I’m getting a paywall so I’ll have to do without the response to this question, but I think I have the gist of it by reading the comments… I am working from home full time and I completely understand feeling a little (sometimes a lot) lonely because of it. However I also know if I go back to the office, I’m taking a BIG chance, as I have a compromised immunity.

    I am extremely grateful I can work from home full time, even though I miss out on the social aspect of my job. While I do sympathize, an attitude like the letter writers would make my life a nightmare. Come on OP, you do confirm you have a social life outside of work! If this is really your worst problem, then bully for you!

    1. Eastcoastanon*

      I just read Alison’s second post. I sincerely apologize OP, apparently this wasn’t your worst problem and the last two sentences of my response were bitter and insensitive. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      I’m sorry.

  92. Metadata minion*

    I also prefer working in the office — I like the ability to casually run into coworkers, the physical separation of work/home, and the more ergonomic setup. But that’s just my personal preference. It doesn’t meant that I value my career more than my coworkers; it just means I value my career enough to not want to get fired and I’m much more focused and productive when I’m in the office. Other people are way more productive and happy at home.

    LW, it sounds like your main issues are that you feel disconnected from both your supervisor and your direct reports. Those are problems that are solveable; there are businesses, especially in tech, that have been completely remote for years. It requires a lot of work and a lot of changing ingrained office social norms, but it’s definitely possible. I would recommend taking a look at what tools long-term-remote businesses use to duplicate that kind of spontaneous networking/socializing/collaborating that you get in a physical office and see which of them might be practical in your situation.

  93. Yeah, no*

    Well this OP’s attitude is…terrible. No matter how many examples I’ve seen, I still am stunned when I see people who cannot fathom their pandemic experience and the impact it’s had on their lives is not the way everyone else has experienced it. If your reports and colleagues can do their jobs successfully from home then leave them at home and don’t punish them professionally for it. I’m assuming your coworkers/reports job requirements don’t list filling your social need bucket so that’s hardly a reason to have people in the office, pandemic or not.

    I’m having a hard time staying within the commenting guidelines here, so I’ll stop now.

  94. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP, please broaden your worldview for the sake of your reports. In the early days of the pandemic I worked for a first time manager with a sheltered upbringing. I needed to work from my parents house (moved out pre pandemic) as I didn’t have viable internet in my flat at the time. She pulled a disgusted face when she saw my brother (additional needs including learning difficulties) and asked me to pay for internet out of my own pocket. When I worked a part time minimum wage office job. I was glad to get away from her.

  95. Snarkastic*

    Woof. That was hard to read. The tone is so flippant, like we’re not still in the middle of a major international health crisis. Allison’s answer was great. This person who was commuting before the vaccine and was “fine” has such a frighteningly skewed perspective on this. It’s like all the people that kept going to bars in 2020. I hope this person takes her advice to heart. Please keep NYC safe!

  96. TG*

    You sound like you have a situation that works for you and that’s great.
    But I think you are lacking empathy for others who have different needs and wants right now.
    You’re not the “office police”; people have childcare issues, partner issues, concerns still about COVID and being around others, may be caring for a family member and or a million other things going on.
    If there is no work related need for people to come back than I’d say let them work remotely.
    Being social at work is great but people aren’t responsible for your having social interactions nor are they bound to what you think is correct for working.
    I’d spend less time focused on others and what they are doing and focus on adding value in your role and being kind and accepting of others circumstances.

  97. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey all. I got a response from the LW which I’ll print in full (probably next week) but the gist is that she’s been struggling with mental health issues, agrees she was looking at this through a wonky lens, had already realized before the letter was printed that she was upset about different issues, and ended with, “Everything that you said is exactly what I needed to learn. It has been hard, but I finally feel like this flexible working future will be a great one.”

    So I’d be appreciative if you’d take it easy on her. Thank you.

    1. leeapeea*

      Thanks for sharing, Allison, and I’m glad to hear from the LW, though I hope she can find support for her struggles.

    2. digitalnative-ish*

      Thanks Alison. Letter definitely struck a nerve but glad there will be an update.

      Going off of this letter, I wonder if scheduling remote check-ins or something similar with reports would help. I don’t think that’s the core issue, but maybe it would help with feeling like they’re missing them in person (by which I mean literally coming in on different days).

    3. Anonym*

      Wishing OP all the best in dealing with mental health and work! It was wise (and brave) to reach out to AAM for help.

    4. Justin*

      I can empathize with it.

      I think finding community outside of work might be of use to her either way so I hope she can do so.

    5. LizB*

      So glad things are looking up for the LW! When I see these letters that sound totally unreasonable/egregious, it makes me so relieved when it turns out the writer is a reasonable person going through a rough time, even if that makes for less entertaining commenting than if they were an awful person who’s going to come argue with everyone all day.

    6. sometimeswhy*

      Oh, oh, oh. I do hope things continue to look up and she’s able to locate resources for how to make the best of the flexibilities. <3

    7. OrigCassandra*

      In the interest of sharing something that’s helped me: co-presence work periods via Zoom. Some call these “accountability sessions” but they don’t have to be framed that way.

      Co-author and I got a book chapter written over the summer by setting aside an hour each week to join a Zoom session and work alongside one another. We didn’t say much, really — agreed on what each of us would be working on at the start (if needed), asked the occasional question aloud, but mostly it was just sitting in our geographically-separate offices and quietly getting work done alongside one another.

      It was good. I’ll be doing it again with a different coauthor this spring.

    8. ecnaseener*

      That is awesome that LW is so willing to re-examine her perspective! Sometimes we have to lay it all out there and “hear” ourselves before we can notice the flaws in our thinking.

      I believe there’s a The Good Place quote about how one of the rarest phenomena in the universe is a person on the internet saying “you’ve convinced me I was wrong” :)

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      That’s great but we should take easy on her even if she didn’t write that – be kind is the rule, correctly

    10. LW*

      LW here. Thank you, Alison, for posting this and sharing my update soon. And thank you everyone for ALL of your comments, the good, the bad, the harsh…all of it. Empathy is not something I normally struggle with as much as I was when I wrote this letter, and a lot of the anger that you are seeing come through is really anger at myself for my inability to understand the changes that have been happening. I think that all of us have had a moment like this during the pandemic. As many of you correctly guessed, I am someone who can be extremely rigid in my thinking and I literally have spent YEARS in therapy learning empathy, because when I was younger I had none. I have gotten so much better, but what you are seeing here is a slip back into a side of myself that I really don’t like and anger and sadness at the fact that this pandemic made me take ten steps back on the work I’ve done on myself. I am really excited for Alison to share my update and look forward to hearing more from everyone soon.

      Thank you again to Alison for this blog and this community. It has helped me with my work struggles more than you all know.

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        It’s been a hard time for everyone, it is okay to sometimes have a lapse here and there because of all of the unprecedented crap going on. I’m glad that you’re able to see what has actually been troubling you, and I really hope you’re feeling better about things (and not being hard on yourself for having a human moment).

      2. zillah*

        This is so, so understandable – none of us are at our best right now, and I’d honestly wonder a little at someone who was. It’s really hard and frustrating, and feeling that is okay.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        This response? Shows an incredible amount of empathy and also self awareness. Seriously, well done, I think you’re going to be fine :)

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. Thank you, LW, for commenting here. I do think that many posters (myself included) have posted in a way that can feel like a pile-on.

          I’m looking forward to your update already!

    11. Dinobytwo*

      Thanks Alison for clarifying. I have to say some of the responses on here have made for some really sad reading. We could all do with being a little more open to people’s life experiences, and to remember this is a human being with real feelings.

    12. pfft*

      I am very much looking forward to this update, Alison.

      As someone who has experienced mental health issues (often provoked and/or made worse by terrible managers) and is neurodiverse, I hope LW is doing better now.

      But I also hope that she has left her direct reports working from home, where they obviously want and need to be.

  98. Jane Rochester*

    OP, you do not maintain a strong company culture by forcing employees back to the office. How are the two things even related?
    And if your company refuses to allow employees flexibility, they will find a company that will.

    1. Jane Rochester*

      Sorry. Just saw Alison’s post. Feel free to delete. Don’t want to be adversarial here.

  99. ElizabethJane*

    I mean, I don’t value my career? This sounds like my friend who told me she thought it was unprofessional for her new hire to quit two weeks in to their job because they received an offer for almost double what she was paying them.

    Maybe people are just realizing there’s more to life than working. I enjoy my job I guess and I’d like to keep it because having money is integral to me doing the things I *actually* value, but really my career as an abstract entity is just not that important and I’m no more dedicated to it than it is to me. And that’s OK.

    1. mmm hmmm*

      I have been saying the exact same thing for years! Sure I like my job; it’s challenging in a good way and I bust my ass for those 8 hours (or more if my manager requires it), but it’s just…my job. The thing I do to fund the life I have and love outside of work. Sure my job is *a* priority, but it’s not *the* priority, you know? That’s my family, friends, health.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yeah, as someone who had two parents who lived to work, not worked to live, I can say that it does incalculable damage to other people. I basically have no relationship with them because my sibling and I were WAY down their priority lists and now that they’ve hit retirement age, they looked around and realized they had no friends, one child already dead, and no other meaningful relationships with family, but I have zero percent interest in anything other than a superficial relationship now.

        But, hey, you stayed at work until 9 every night, so good for you I guess.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Dang, this is so sad and I was dangerously close to becoming your parents before going to therapy and learning that centering my career so heavily in my identity was detrimental to my long-term happiness.

  100. Michelle Smith*

    “The pandemic is not over.”

    As a disabled person, thank you Alison for acknowledging this. I hate this idea that everyone should just be over it already and hop, skip, and jump back to work. Just because it is safe and okay for one person doesn’t mean it is safe and okay for everyone.

    1. parsley*

      There’s a TikTok song that goes, ‘the pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it’, and I still sing it to myself every other day.

  101. Kowalski!*

    OP I just want to throw out that I was sent home from my office in March 2020 and haven’t been back there since. In that time, I have been promoted twice and am currently in the running for my third promotion. I assure you I care deeply about my job despite the fact I work from home and have no plans to return to the office; it is how I (and most other people) ensure the safety and security of my #1 priority: my family. Working from home can be successful as long as management fosters it.

  102. Policy Wonk*

    Personally, I also prefer to be in the office. My work, and work style, are both better when they are collaborative. That said, COVID is nothing to mess with. My employees who are not willing to come back to the office fall into two main categories: 1. Those with care-giving responsibilities (child or elder care) and 2. Those who rely on public transportation which tends to be crowded and not good at enforcing the mask requirement. Until in-office presence is required I am not willing to push them to come in. I note that very few can actually do their full job remotely, so the day will come when they have to come in several days a week. But with any luck day cares will be open and public transportation will be more safe, less concerning.

  103. blink14*

    Something to remember here is that New York and the tri state area have great vaccination numbers, especially Manhattan which an incredibly high vaccination rate, and NYC has some of the strictest Covid related requirements and laws in the US. Now consider that NYC is within the Northeast, which is the most highly vaccinated geographical area in the US. I have multiple chronic conditions, including an immune disorder, and I have been very isolated since the pandemic began, and even I felt safer in NYC on a recent stay in the city (I grew up in the local area) than I have anywhere else interacting with the public. I could actually relax a bit, because most people were clearly trying to avoid Covid and avoid passing it on. This is not the case for many other locations in the US.

    That being said, the risk is still there, even in a highly vaccinated place. International travel is going to start opening back up at a wider scale, domestic travel ebbs and flows, kids are back to school, a lot of people are back to work without a choice to stay home, or choose to go in for a better work/life balance. If your company is still offering everyone to WFH if they choose, then you can’t force people to come in. You don’t know what someone’s health situation is, their home life, different ways that WFH can alleviate stress and costs.

    I work out of another major Northeast city, and I was offered to have my position go remote permanently, because my position is the only one out of my department that can do that long term. I took the chance, and had I been asked to come in on a hybrid schedule, like the rest of my department, I would’ve submitted a medical request to remain remote through at least next spring. It’s given me flexibility to deal with my own health and to take myself out of the risk equation to a large degree – one less person driving, one less person coming into the office, one less person to spread Covid or catch it.

    I will say the one thing that would be annoying is if people pop in randomly and you’re unable to plan around that – I think it’s totally reasonable to ask people to set a office/WFH schedule, even temporarily, or sign up every week or every few weeks for the days they will be in the office. For instance, those in my department who are hybrid have to be in on Wednesdays, and then can choose the other 2 days. It works out that there is office coverage every day of the week, and we all know generally who is where on what day. Things come up and the schedule changes as needed, but there is stability in that approach.

  104. Alex*

    Pandemic or not, I’m not ever going back to the office unless I absolutely must. My office also has a “come in if you feel like it” rule…and, well, I never feel like it. My reasons have nothing to do with the pandemic at all, just simply that I much prefer doing my work from the comfort of my own home rather than our very uncomfortable office, after losing two and a half hours of my day to commuting. That’s really all it is. If I have the choice, I’m going to pick what is best for me, not what is best for someone else.

  105. Generic Name*

    Your reasons for wanting everyone back don’t appear to be especially work-related. My reasons for still mainly working from home aren’t especially work-related either. I am currently watching old episodes of Bake Off while I respond to tedious agency comments on a report. I am wearing sweats, slippers, and a hoodie. My hair is uncombed and in a messy bun. I am sitting in my separate office in my suburban home, and I can cook a quick lunch and throw dinner in the crock pot while my lunch cooks/heats up. My teenage son will be leaving home in a few years, and I find it’s really valuable to be able to spend that little bit of extra time with him. Plus, there are still some unvaccinated holdouts in my office, and I know several people who have had breakthrough COVID infections. My niece and nephew are too young to get vaccinated, and I’d really like to see them this Christmas. I’m sorry that this calculus I’m making for myself and my family might make some coworkers feel lonely.

  106. Mannheim Steamroller*

    [“While the days of being in the office full-time are over….”]

    Not for everyone.

    Just when I got accustomed to an A/B hybrid schedule (my group goes in Monday/Tuesday and alternate Fridays; the other group goes in Wednesday/Thursday and the remaining Fridays), the higher-ups decreed that we must return full time starting November 15. Not looking forward to it.

  107. Moira Rose*

    I think there are plenty of reasons to want people back in the office. As someone who started a new job this past summer, it’s fucking brutal to come into an office that feels like an abandoned mining town. All the normal ways you might have incidental interactions with coworkers, the way you learn, hey, Jack knows a ton about this database and Janey knows all about that programming language — those are mostly gone, unless I guess your office has an enormously strong Slack culture. (Mine does not.)

    So I have a lot of empathy for the OP. I would urge some extra patience as America rolls out kid vaccines and boosters for us high-risk folks. Maybe take your management’s pulse in 6 months about setting some rules around people being in the office certain days.

    And for everyone saying that requiring any in-person attendance will lose you employees, well, sure, any policy could. It’s up to any given organization to decide how they want to go on this. My current employer has a “most people in the office most of the time” policy, and it’s working fine. There are full-remote people who’ve gotten permission for that. If I have to be home a certain day or set of days because my kid’s daycare is closed, it’s fine.

    1. Observer*

      And for everyone saying that requiring any in-person attendance will lose you employees, well, sure, any policy could.

      What people are saying is not just that “requiring in person attendance” but requiring it WITHOUT ANY REAL BUSINESS NEED. And doing so IN OPPOSITION TO THE COMPANY POLICY.

  108. The Other Dawn*

    LW, you say there’s a lack of authority, but the “authority” is right here: “Our CEO, however, has been preaching “do whatever you want”…” And everyone is, in fact, doing what they want, which is what the CEO said to do.

    I’m not someone who believes “there’s never ever a reason to have people come to the office no matter what,” but I also don’t feel like I have the “butts in seats” mentality, either. Basically, I don’t think people should be forced into coming in more often than is necessary unless there’s a business reason for doing so. To me, a business reason would be meeting with people for performance reviews/feedback, training events, town hall meetings, collaboration on a project, and things like that. And I would argue that wanting to see your team and get back some comraderie could be a valid business reason, but I would think that could be limited to once a week or a couple times a month. I don’t think it’s reasonable to bring people back three days a week just because you miss them and want to be social. That’s going to cause resentment and eventually turnover.

    If you want your direct reports come in more often, I’d come up with a solid business case for it (I don’t see one based on what you wrote, really) and present that to your boss. Given the CEO’s stance, I wouldn’t go ahead without her blessing it first. If you get the go-ahead, I’d be prepared for some pushback from your team and accept you might lose them if working from home is really important to them.

    LW, our CEO has much the same thoughts about being in the office as you do and I can tell you people are really upset about it and it has caused much resentment. Several have quit recently. While I think it’s not doable (in our particular company) to be 100% WFH across the board, there are many areas that can do so but are blocked from it by the CEO. And the reason is basically her wanting to see people in person and for people to be more social. There’s no apparent thought given to whether a particular department really needs to be on site or would actually work better being remote, or if there can be some sort of mix.

  109. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Who would want to? (Other than my extremely extroverted spouse).

    Sure, utilities cost more, but I barely buy gas now, don’t have to buy new/more office clothes, pay for parking, deal with coworkers (my cats, tho annoying, pale in comparison to Mr. Eats-entire-block-of-cheese-at-desk and Ms. won’t-shut-up).

  110. lilsheba*

    It’s not hard to figure out, working from home is a win for a lot of people. Especially ones that are NOT introverts. I have my privacy, I have my freedom to have my workspace however I want, I don’t have to deal with those god awful fluorescent lights, I can cook lunch if I want, I have my bathroom all to myself, and my coffee all to myself. No commute, I can handle small chores throughout the day, it’s much easier for me since I get fatigued and lose energy really easily. I will never work in an office again, and luckily I should never have to.

  111. Underrated Pear*

    I do sympathize with the OP, because it is really hard to have an environment shift so drastically to one where you feel like many of the “good” parts have been stripped away. But like others, the “running out of excuses” part of this letter left an especially bad taste in my mouth. First, COVID is not over, particularly for those who have children too young to be vaccinated (and juuuust as a reminder, there’s still no word on vaccine data for the very youngest set, so they won’t be vaccinated until at least early 2022) or have high-risk people in their household.

    But even forgetting all COVID reasons… why do you think people need an “excuse” to prefer remote work? Is saving 10+ hours a week and thousands of dollars a year an “excuse”? Being able to take the dog for a walk at lunchtime and not have to hire a dog walker? Being able to pick kids up at school without turning your life upside down and running behind every single day? Not to mention many people have enjoyed the ability to make decent lunches, take short walks during breaks more easily, be home to let the repairperson in, do stretches during a meeting without distracting anyone, etc etc… And yet plenty of people report that they’re MORE productive this way, because either their office environments were distracting, and/or it’s simply easier to be productive when you have more time and rest and aren’t consumed by trying to work your schedule around being away from home 9-10+ hours every day.

    Not everyone’s situation is like this, and I’ll say that yes, I do miss seeing my coworkers and admit that a little bit is lost when trying to meet over Zoom. But the downsides, for me, do not even come close to the upsides, which have impacted me both personally and productivity-wise.

  112. Michael Scott Moment*

    I think this is a great learning opportunity for managers. People have lost loved ones, lived through trauma, and may not trust their coworkers to behave in a way that minimizes risk. Breakthrough infections or worries about infecting the under 12 year olds in our lives or immune compromised loved ones are not small concerns. I manage two people with kids under 12 and one person taking care of someone in chemotherapy. Shared workspaces involve some level of risk and I don’t have any reason worth asking the folks I manage to take on extra risk. I am a flexible manager because it is the right thing to do but also because it is in the best interest of my employer. We cannot afford to lose those folks and if they left it would create vacancies that would be harder to fill than an early career manager might assume.

    Managing is about so much more than delegation and performance review. Retention is important too.

    This is also maybe one too many layers to add but with so much focus on addressing DEI issues in workplaces, it’s worth thinking about how Covid has disproportionately impacted BIPOC communities and the privilege that managers may have that may make them out of touch.

  113. Firm Believer*

    While I don’t disagree with most of the comments can we stop accusing managers who want to have collaborative face time with their teams as having social issues, being lonely and needing friends? There are huge benefits in having face to face time with coworkers and senior staff.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      The thing of it is though, that LW didn’t state that as her reason. This is all about what LW wants, not what is best for the company. She doesn’t want to sit in an office alone, she wants to socialize.

      I mean, it’s right there in the letter.

    2. DCompliance*

      I find on camera meetings to a good replacement.

      There are benefits to being in person. However, a lot us have not found any value in the times that a manager as required face to face meetings. Or maybe is serves the manager, but not everyone else.

      But never have I felt it as anything to with being lonely or needing friends so I can see how those comments seem snide.

    3. A*

      While I certainly wouldn’t use those words/phrases against someone with different preferences than myself – I do truly believe it’s a preference. Blanket statements are inherently flawed, and this is no exception. Personally I do not need in person interaction to collaborate, build rapport etc. with my colleagues. I respect that some feel the need for in person interaction, but to act like this is a black & white situation is misleading.

  114. BlueBelle*

    I am never doing it. I am never going back to the office even part-time. I have been WFH for 5 years now, my “home office” is in Florida, I live in NM, my manager is in California, and my direct reports are all over North America, mostly in Canada.
    If you are worried about connecting with your managers and direct reports then that is a change in the way you communicate. Have video meetings at least one time a month, use whatever chat functions you have, but forcing people back into the office because you have that preference is going to backfire.

    1. Not Holding My Breath*

      Agreed, I actually interact with my supervisors and coworkers more with video conferencing, and find it more productive because we are not hovering over each other’s shoulders.

  115. Scmill*

    Before retiring, I was in IT development and was the only person on my team in my location. The other team members were scattered from the east coast US to India, and we rarely met in person. Meetings were online. If they had told me I had to go back to the office, I would have quit on the spot. Be careful what you wish for.

  116. RJ*

    This was a triggering letter for me as I was in the position of the people OP managed prior to COVID. My manager had a similar setup where she hated working from home, required collaborative action on all tasks and allowed no one to WFH despite it being permitted company wide. She wound up losing nearly all of her staff and being asked to resign by upper management shortly after I left.

    Managing people is hard, OP, but you need to look beyond your own situation and into that of the people you work with. Not everyone works best how you work best. People have WFH needs and preferences and if your upper management has no obstacles to this, then you are the obstacle. You’re not going to go back to the old ‘normal’ and you can either help form part of the new one or wait for your staff to leave one by one and receive that harrowing email from HR and/or upper management calling you into an early morning meeting…

  117. COHikerGirl*

    I’m glad the OP realizes her view was wonky.

    My story: I’m an older Millennial. I got COVID March 17, 2020 (likely caught it while flying through Seattle, Alaska to Denver, CO). It was a mild case (never hospitalized), but I’m long hauler (19+ months, still not better). I don’t do well working at home. I never have. I’m an introvert but my AHDH makes it hard being alone and working. Having the office setting helps.

    I don’t want to go back to the office anytime soon. I was going in for awhile. Basically no one else was there, so it was fine. Then a coworker I had been in a meeting with (me masked, them unmasked, both vaccinated) tested positive. They’d been not feeling well when we had the meeting. I immediately left the office and, crying, drove to get a COVID test. Others had been exposed as well. I tested negative and went back into the office after that. Saw someone who had been exposed there, without a mask, and left. Haven’t been back since.

    I would do better. But I can’t risk getting COVID again. I don’t know what would happen. I’m not in a risk category nor do I have underlying conditions that would contribute. I used to be a runner and hiker. But I now have, despite looking fine, anxiety and PTSD regarding this. I can’t do what would be best for me mentally because that could be detrimental to me mentally and physically.

    This isn’t cut and dry. There are many like me (30% of unvaccinated people who contract COVID end up long haulers). For anyone else who might have this mindset…please don’t. Even those of us who seem fine aren’t.

  118. On site anon*

    I don’t agree with most of the points the LW made, but it is frustrating to hear this constant refrain that absolutely nothing is different about working from home and those of us experiencing those differences are simply wrong. It’s obviously more complicated than that.

    It’s also frustrating to have it completely framed as an extrovert/introvert thing. I’m an introvert and I work full time in the office as a function of my job, and I am struggling with basically having no peer relationships while managing a difficult workload that’s difficult as a result of covid. I don’t think that’s a reason for my colleagues to come back before they’re ready, but it is a lot to deal with everything happening here while my colleagues grow less and less aware of the realities of working on site.

    I wish we saw some empathy toward people of different perspectives when this topic comes up instead of such defensiveness. There’s more than just the OP reading.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      “I wish we saw some empathy toward people of different perspectives when this topic comes up instead of such defensiveness.”

      SAME! I’m seeing so much hypocrisy in the comments, in which folks bash the OP for putting their own preferences first while simultaneously arguing that WFH is better. We all have different preferences and different perspectives. The OP is not wrong for missing the company, camaraderie, and collaboration that they used to get from working in the office. The issue is trying to force those preferences on other people who are coming from different perspectives.

      1. Stop whining*

        Ann O’Nemity I see people explaining why WFH is better for them, to counter OP’s declarations that in-person three days is optimal for everyone. Maybe I’ve missed it, but in all the responses I’ve read, I haven’t seen even one insist that OP should be forced to WFH. The overwhelming message is that in-person is your choice and that’s great, but forcing it on others when there isn’t a business need, as determined by those with the power to decide, simply because you want work-place socialization, is not ok.

  119. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP —
    Your letter focuses on your frustration about not having your colleagues back at work more often. But is it really lack of access to your boss that’s bothering you?

    My boss and I are very close and agree on almost everything except for this. Selfishly, I want her to come to the office so that I can spend some time with her, but I am also frustrated that she isn’t willing to give any direction to our larger team

    Not getting adequate direction and feedback from your boss is a legitimate problem. How explicit have you been with her about that? If you really have things that need to go forward that you can’t pursue without more input from her, then you really need to discuss that with her, never mind what your coworkers are doing. If you don’t have regularly scheduled time with her, then by all means set that up at once and use it to discuss your concerns, being very specific about what kind of authorization or feedback you need from her.

    Short version: focus on getting specific input and direction from your own boss. Don’t be side-tracked by what you think other people should (or shouldn’t) be doing.

  120. YL*

    People should be able to work from home if they can do their job from home. I’m from the US and I think this is especially important since our vaccine rate and mask compliance isn’t so good. Eventually, your co-workers/employees will have an exposure incident that will require them to quarantine. Why not just cut the risks by just doing WFH? Also, WFH brings a better quality of life for a lot of people because they don’t have to spend money and time on a commute.

    Admittedly, I WFH, but my neighbors don’t adhere to masking guidelines. My building’s policy is you must wear a mask in public areas regardless of vaccination status. It definitely freaks me out when I try to use the public printer, but an unmasked person is using it/near it. I’m really thankful I can work from home so I don’t have to worry about an exposure scare and exposing my co workers to COVID.

  121. Alexander Graham Yell*

    I get wanting people back in the office, I really do. But nothing you said is about work except your manager, and that’s a manager problem, not a remote work problem.

    I agree with Alison, this isn’t a hill to die on. I’d put more energy into finding other outlets for social activity and/or seeing your team. My favourite people in the city I live in are mostly the people I work with and we’ve gone to parks or arranged outdoor lunches to see each other.

    If it’s *these specific* people you miss, find other ways to see them. If it’s seeing people *in general* you miss, see what other social options are available. But please give your team the grace that you’ve given yourself – you say you’ve found the optimal office/home split, but they’ve done the same for themselves. You need to understand that.

  122. Youngin*

    So this is about you wanting people to talk to rather than a actual need for people to be in the office, right? I think it’s a little selfish to expect people to return to the office if its not necessary and no longer makes sense for their lives. What was easy pre-pandemic, is not to easy during a pandemic…and yes we are still in a pandemic.

  123. Boof*

    OP, at best I could see “whatever, whenever” be a struggle to plan around, but “3 days a week in the office” seems very arbitrary. Work on articulating what the problems truly are; are there tasks that are easier to do in person, and aren’t particularly urgent, but are hard to actually know when they will happen since you don’t know when someone will come in? If it’s something like that, it’s reasonable to work on a plan with (whoever), maybe they come in a half day once a week, or a full day once a month, etc; whatever actual work related checkbox that you feel is lacking, figure that out first.

  124. Random Bystander*

    I am working from home now, and have done so since the last week or so of March 2020 (I forget the exact date, but there were some tech challenges that had to be resolved before we could go WFH). Recently, the workplace sent out a survey giving us three options: return to office 100%, hybrid (to be specified later), or continue WFH 100%. Quite frankly, the hybrid option was the worst of all possible worlds. Returning to office 100% would mean going back to having a designated cube and losing the internet stipend (not a huge amount, certainly not enough to cover the bill, but better than nothing); remaining WFH 100% would mean no changes (continue as we have been, maintaining the internet stipend); the hybrid would lose the internet stipend *and* have to hot-desk on whatever days the person was in the office.

    WFH has increased my job satisfaction for a number of, admittedly, non-work related reasons. For one, in the office, I had a desk on the window side of the building, but the person at the next desk insisted on keeping the darkening blind down all the time (rather than try some other means of mitigating glare on her monitor *or* requesting a desk in an interior row). My home office has a window, and yes, I enjoy looking out to see daylight whenever I take a screen-break look away from my desk.

    I have cats, and if I have a stressful account to work on, and I need a stress break, I can just go pet a cat, and then get back to it.

    It’s easier for me to prepare my lunches (instead of trying to rush through lunch prep while cooking/eating breakfast)–now I can just prepare and eat lunch during my lunch break. I don’t have to drive in, and navigate the elevator (which sometimes involved *long* waits for the elevator or stopping on every floor all the way up to the 5th where my office was).

    Also, earlier this year, I had to deal with having a cancer diagnosis (cured with surgery, I’ve been into post op follow up and call myself a cancer survivor even though it’s less than a year). WFH was a huge burden-lifter while I was dealing with that. If I didn’t feel like being seen/heard, I could keep the camera off, keep the mike muted and do everything by IM, and since sometimes I went on crying jags when I was still in the uncertainty stage (knowing I had cancer, but not the stage or whether surgery would be enough or if I’d have to do chemo/radiation), but I disturbed no one because I was in my house. I also didn’t have to reserve energy to deal with faux-sympathy from some of my co-workers–I told my supervisor and a few trusted friends that I could rely on to do what I was asking for in the way of support. The reason I say faux-sympathy is because these are the same co-workers who tried to get me in trouble in Feb 2020 by talking about my DIL coming back from China and “and now she’s coughing” when the reality was that while I was delighted that my DIL got out of China to get back to my son, they live 300 miles away from me and I hadn’t seen them in person since Thanksgiving 2019 (so no chance she could transmit anything to me because the virus does *not* travel over phone lines) and that it wasn’t me who was coughing, it was that co-worker at the neighboring desk who wanted the blinds down all the time–and both facts could have easily been confirmed without starting a whisper-campaign. So while I like my job well enough, I am quite happy to *not* see my co-workers. Especially the one at the next desk over, whose favorite thing whenever she felt stressed was to make comments that sounded like suicidal ideation (except very improbable means), and I cannot stress enough how stressful that was for *me* to listen to this “Maybe I’ll just kill myself. I just want to jump out the window [on the fifth floor, but windows are non-opening]. I’m just going to shoot myself” [when I know she doesn’t have firearm access] over and over, sometimes as much as 6 out of 8 hours a day but if I went to supervisor and said “I think co-worker is having trouble, she keeps talking this way”, co-worker would deny saying it. Yeah, don’t miss the office at all.

    Of course, if there were work-related reasons for going back to the office, I’d have to suck it up and go back to the office. But we’ve been WFH for 1.5 years, and there just haven’t been any *work*-related issues that require a return to office.

  125. anonymous73*

    Your personal preferences don’t get to dictate the amount of time that your colleagues come into the office. There are a multitude of reasons why people may want to work from home more often than not. For me, I get to sleep later, get 2 hours of my time back each day that I was spending in the car, save money on gas and wear and tear on my car, I can do laundry and other at home tasks during the day when I have down time, can dress more casually when I don’t have video calls, get to spend more time with my family (see get 2 hours of my time back), and most importantly (to me), I don’t have to deal with nosy and gossipy co-workers trying to get all up in my business all the time. While I do (sort of) miss the collaboration and socialization that happens at the office, I’d much rather work from home and spend my (more) free time on things that actually matter to me.

    1. anonymous73*

      And since I didn’t mention anything about the state of he country at the moment, here you go…my husband works for the government and has been back in the office for a while now. He came home on Friday to tell me that one of the women in his 10 person meeting got a phone call after the meeting that her COVID test was positive. She had been out sick the previous 2 days, had a COVID test Friday morning AND THEN CAME TO WORK BEFORE SHE GOT THE RESULTS. I trust nobody in this pandemic, so that’s another reason I have no desire to go back to an office.

  126. OwlEditor*

    I understand your frustration OP! I love working in office and it’s taken a huge toll on my mental health to be wfh since 2020. Unfortunately, I have a huge amount of covid anxiety and am struggling with trying to get back to work in office. I was recently told that my whole team is petitioning to WFH full time and it was implied that me wanting to work in office would “rock the boat” so I may be stuck WFH for a while. It sucks, but I don’t want to ruin it for my team. I wish they’d be more understanding, but one thing I’ve learned from AAM is that the majority want to work remote.

  127. Staggeringly Brilliant Username*

    Did anyone else notice OP’s boss had her first child during the pandemic??? This is the part that stood out the most to me. Even if your offices are “safe”, and people follow all precautions to the letter (doubt it), there is no such thing as social distancing on a NYC subway. Breakthrough cases are a thing. They are increasingly a more common thing. Your risk tolerances are not Universally Correct. YOUR BOSS JUST HAD A BABY! To then say she should risk exposing her unvaccinated infant (who can’t tell mommy if she looses her sense of taste, or smell, for whom COVID could be life-threatening) simply because you want some face time… It doesn’t make you sound compassionate, or empathetic, or aware that other people’s life circumstances are different from your own.

    In answer to your actual question “What can I do to make sense of this and stay happy at work?” I think the answer is to not assume that you are “right” and others are “wrong”/ “making excuses” (good approach in life, not just in terms of pandemic precautions). Whenever you get that sense of frustration that other people are acting in a way that diverges from your Actually Correct way, try to make the argument in your head for why their decision is the correct one. Assume they are conscientious, hard working people, whose cost-benefit analysis of the situation has yielded different results from yours. Creating real empathy for others, makes it harder to judge them so harshly IMO.

    Also, you mention “a small group of us have picked our days and come in very regularly” I’m wondering if that small group of you all feel the same frustrations, and are amplifying it for one another…

  128. Caboose*

    I wish that conversations about coming into the office didn’t inevitably devolve into a bunch of “Those nasty extroverts have had it too good for too long! Nobody wants to spend time around other people!!”.

    As an introverted homebody, I rely on coming into the office to meet my minimal social needs. And yes, there is a lot of collaboration that can happen in an office that cannot physically happen online. Side conversations aren’t possible online, due to the nature of online communication; you can’t have a conversation that’s partially in your periphery that you’re keeping half an ear on.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      “Side conversations aren’t possible online”

      Yes they can. It’s called picking up the phone and talking to someone. No office required.

      1. allathian*

        Or a private IM. Obviously on employer-owned equipment you can’t assume that any of those things are truly private, but side conversations are still possible.

  129. GlamorousNonprofiteer*

    Instead of this being a Millenial vs Gen Whatever or an introvert vs extrovert, I think this is more of a “awareness of others” issue which may come later (if ever) to some folx. The inquiry reads like someone really unaware of people not themselves.

    So to our dear OP, I ask you this … are you a qualified immunologist? Virologist? Infection disease expert? If not, you do not get to tell your colleagues, staff, or your boss what’s “fine” when it comes to a novel virus that has killed 700,000+ humans in the U.S. alone. Your risk tolerance is not that of your coworkers – if they have tiny humans who can’t get vaccinated, loved ones who can’t get vaccinated or who had a poor response to the vaccine – coming into contact with someone like you who so blithely rejects best practices and health concerns with an “it’s fine”, I wouldn’t blame them for never coming into the office because having to work with someone who shows no awareness of the health and safety of others is troubling.

    I have a combination of health conditions that, at the height of the pandemic, had a mortality rate of 53% and I don’t look sick. I look robustly healthy, and I’m damn good at makeup for Zoom (thank you community theatre).

    So before you issue another round of “well, but it’s not that big of a deal”, remember that your lived experience isn’t that of your colleagues and if your boss is saying “work wherever, just do your job” and your colleagues are opting to WFH, maybe it’s not that they are lazy or not ready to “get back to normal” but it could be that your attitude and commentary during this entire godawful 19 months made them realize that they would never want to be in an office with a potentially dangerous (and toxic) person.

    Take this chance to breathe, drink some water, schedule an appointment with a therapist, and do some work on why you think this way when the entire comments section is telling you NOPE.

  130. nnn*

    Before we even get into the question of why working for home is better for my physical and mental health productivity, the fact of the matter is going into the office takes an extra 2 hours out of my day, much of which means waking up early.

    Part of this time is commute time. Part of this time is the time it takes to get out of bed and showered and dressed and looking professional. Part of this time is planning and organizing and packing up the stuff I need to bring with me for a full day outside my home. And part of it is because I’m slower earlier in the morning, so a morning routine that takes 30 minutes at 8 a.m. takes 45 minutes at 7 a.m.

    I am highly incentivized not to do this additional 2 hours of unpaid, unproductive labour, especially when I can just…not do it!

    1. Random Bystander*

      With you there–it has cleared up so much of my morning and I’ve gone from getting up at 4:15am to 5am because I don’t need that extra 45 minutes of getting ready in the morning time. The rest of why WFH is better for me is in my reply upthread.

      WFH has so many advantages, it’s hard to list them all. Return to office really needs an authentic business reason (this essential task cannot be done properly via remote work).

    2. pfft*


      My commute regularly takes 3 hours, so this is an investment of 4 to 5 hours I am not willing to make just because some useless manager or colleague wants some company in the office, or someone to boss around. No thanks.

  131. Ann O'Nemity*

    A few months ago Alison published a letter titled “I Hate Working From Home.” I see some parallels – an OP who would prefer everyone to be working together in the office, but finds themselves in a company where most people feel the opposite. Alison’s advice and the comments in that article may be really helpful for the OP (and a little kinder than what’s here).

  132. Allornone*

    Dear Wendy (another advice columnist) just linked to this article in her forums (a direct link, so Alison is getting the credit she deserves)!

  133. n.m.*

    It seems like a lot of OP’s frustration is personal, but the way they describe people just “doing whatever”, I’m wondering if it would be helpful/reasonable within their workplace to have more formal schedules? Not like everyone following the same schedule, but like formally saying “OP is in on MWF and remote TTh. Bob is in every Monday and remote the rest of the week. Cheryl is in on the first Tuesday of the month and remote the rest of the month”

  134. MM*

    I am WAYYYY more productive at home than in the office – I can’t do detailed work nearly as well with voices in the background, and movement in my visual field as people walk around.

    Also – I’m against being required to provide my employer with my personal medical info. I’m vaccinated, but I think it’s wrong to be required to share that or any medical info with my employer. When we return to the office (still by exception only) we have to show proof of vaccination or get rapid test that day -if I have to come in for specific meeting, i’ll get tested.

    1. MM*

      I’m also much more willing to go to 6pm meetings (I’m east coast, most co-workers are west coast, and they set mtgs on their workday) if I’m already home.

  135. Turtle*

    “If they are choosing not to come in, does this mean they don’t value their careers?”

    phew…that’s a doozy. What an assumption to make about other people based on…your own personal preferences and no additional information?

  136. Elizabeth West*

    Well, I would love to be back in an office again. I’m tired of sitting at home. I prefer having somewhere to go and having work be separate from my home life, and yet have the option to WFH if a contractor is coming or I have the sniffles, which these days may not be just the sniffles.

    That said, we are still in a pandemic. We’re probably going to have another wave this winter because there are still far too many unvaccinated people. Not only that, but flu season is upon us. People who won’t get COVID vaccines probably don’t get flu shots, either.

    I kind of read this letter as a vent, and I get it; I understand where you’re coming from, OP. But the way you want things to be isn’t the way they are. Please try to see it from your reports’ point of view. A rigidly butt-in-seat manager isn’t going to retain good workers, not anymore, not in this climate. We’re all just going to have to hang in there until this jerk of a virus is under control and then see where things go. I don’t know when this pandemic will end, but it will eventually. I think once it’s safe to congregate again you will see more people choosing to do so.

    In the meantime, if you can socialize safely outside of work, I’d put some energy into that.

  137. mreasy*

    I don’t get it when people can’t understand not wanting to return to the office. There are upsides like free coffee and saying hi, but the downsides like the commute, having to wear real pants, and inability to pet my cats during the day really outweigh them.

    1. allathian*

      The coffee in my office isn’t even free! Granted, 50 cents a cup isn’t much, but it’s still quite a lot for the muddy slurry we get from the vending machine. I’ll say one thing for it, though, it’s a great laxative… So I buy 4 euro lattes from the cafe in the foyer when I’m at the office…

  138. sofar*

    If this past year+ has taught us anything, it’s the need to be flexible. I’ve got kind of the same-but-different problem as the LW. I have been going into the office (NOBODY else on my team is), and I’m considered the one who is “inconveniencing” the WFH people. Because I can’t be available right at 8am because I’m commuting. Because I can’t “stay on” after 6:3o because I need to get in my car and drive home. Because I can’t “jump on” an unscheduled call real quick because I have to find and book a meeting room, so as not to bother the few other souls who came into the office.

    People are still navigating working in the “new normal,” LW. Everyone is doing their best. Think about how miffed you’d feel if anyone told you you “had to” stay home instead of go to the office. That’s how your coworkers would feel about having to go in.

  139. Texas*

    “I want to hang out with my coworkers but they don’t! Aren’t they terrible people for not spending time with me?!?”

    Like, I have a life. I’m doing my job. And my job is not my life. If you get your socializing exclusively from the office, that’s a you problem. Your coworkers don’t exist to please you.

  140. It's Me*

    I genuinely wish LW well in working on their control issues, because it sounds like there are… some.

  141. Rebecca*

    Until COVID happened, introverts were forced to work in an extrovert’s world. Now people FINALLY have options. If this type of setup doesn’t work for you, I’m sure there are plenty of other workplaces that would fit your needs. If their work is still getting done, it’s really none of your concern. Clearly you go to work to socialize, but for a lot of people, that’s the worst part. Just worry about yourself.

  142. Ladycrim*

    Working from home over the past year and a half has changed my attitude towards work and being in an office. I found that at home I was more productive, less stressed (no horrid commute), and healthier – not just the COVID risk, but I went over a year with no colds or migraines. Then my bosses announced that they were stopping WFH with no exceptions. They refused to even discuss it, nor did they give an explanation beyond a vague “It’s better to have staff in the office”. I decided it was a deal-breaker for me, so I got another job that’s still majority WFH (with a higher wage, yet). I gave my notice today. As long as your staff’s work isn’t unduly suffering, let them keep the setup that’s best for them.

  143. Dragon*

    Before and without Covid, there was an issue with bosses who WFH instead of coming into the office when a major project was due.

    Some things can’t be done from home, or are easier done at the office. When the boss doesn’t come in, it’s that much harder for the people who are in the office to get his/her attention when they need it.

  144. nnn*

    Also, this letter is yet another example of why employers need to work on restructuring teams and cross-training employees so tasks that need doing in the office are assigned to people actively interested in coming into the office, and other tasks are assigned to people who’d prefer to work from home, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

  145. RB*

    This is a tough one because I really get where the LW is coming from. I feel the same way, but while I’d like to go back to the office 2-4 days a week, my company (in it’s infinite wisdom) went to hot-desking during the pandemic as part of an office remodel. So, as much as I’d like to go back, nothing will be the same and I’m not sure what it will achieve if we’ve lost the collaboration and comradery that came from the old office setup.

  146. pfft*

    Thank you, Alison, for providing OP with such an excellent reply.

    I mean you no disrespect, OP, but I am so, so sick of managers complaining that people don’t want to come into the office…only to do work that they can get done at home. Thank goodness that you are not the one making the decision here. Your boss is being very sensible and fair and is to be applauded.

    Unless your team actually HAVE to be at the office to do their job (such as, “they need to use this expensive/delicate/potentially dangerous equipment that cannot be physically moved and needs to be kept at this lab/warehouse/office to do their job”), if they want to work from home, leave them working from home. If you want a resentful, frustrated staff body who will leave as soon as they can, by all means, keep pushing for them to pointlessly drag into the office, just so you can be kept company and make them perform unpaid emotional labour by building and maintaining “company culture”.

    I am a fairly extroverted person. I have started a new job during the pandemic. I have had no trouble whatsoever “bonding” with my colleagues and getting to know them, despite the fact our relationship thus far has been entirely over Slack, email, Teams and the phone. Other than a couple of very minor IT issues, I have not had any trouble onboarding. My work is being described as “excellent” by my boss and I am extremely productive.

    I have not been sick AT ALL since I started working from home. I do not have to commute for an average of two to three hours a day. I am able to sleep for longer and better; not being a natural morning person, I am not being forced to run on permanent jet lag. I have time to exercise, cook, relax, and spend time with my friends and family. All of this adds up to even more productivity for my employer.

    Also, I am paid well, and I am paid on time. I cannot tell you how much more productive this makes me. You know, because I’m not constantly stressed as to if I’ll be able to pay my bills and keep my family fed and a roof over our heads?

    My job is NOT keeping anyone company at the office.

    Oh, and there’s also this potentially deadly pandemic going on. Why the hell would I want to put myself and my family and friends at risk of death or permanent injury just because you want someone to hang out with at the office (or so you can feel important because you have a team to boss around)?

    This isn’t actually about you, OP. Sorry.

    1. parsley*

      I also noticed, I haven’t had a regular cold once this year! Although I’ve had to come back to the office two days a week and the FD has been coughing on the other side of the desk, so I may be premature in that statement.

  147. BooRadley*

    Oh honey. No no no. If what you want is team building and in person collaboration, set up a meeting (give plenty of notice – weeks not days), make it clear what the goal is, and offer a carrot. Like the rest of the afternoon off after the meeting. That’s what we started doing to foster some more social ties in one of our departments on a team that started during covid. Every six weeks, the