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

Remember the letter-writer last week who was frustrated that her team didn’t want to return to the office? She sent in an update that same day and sounds like she had already been coming to some of these conclusions before her letter was published. Here’s the update.

Thanks for responding, Alison! I totally agree with everything you said and after I wrote this letter I spoke to my boss and the head of HR at my company where we touched on similar points. Also for further context on the letter and what happened after, here are a few things I learned.

1) I suffer from depression and anxiety and was trying to decrease my medication (with the advice of my psychiatrist). It didn’t go well and magnified my feelings about the situation. Fortunately, I realized this and spoke to my psychiatrist, and we adjusted our plans. So when you say I was looking at this through a wonky lens … yup, you are 100% correct. My anxiety often causes me to make incorrect assumptions about people and their behaviors which further fuels the anxiety. It really really sucks and turns me into someone I am not proud of. I hope that others in my situation are able to get the help that they need. This is the first time that my mental health issues have directly presented themselves at work and I am extremely fortunate that my company is understanding.

2) After I realized #1 was happening and dug deeper into why I was so frustrated with my workplace, I discovered that I actually wasn’t upset about the office at all. Being in a start-up environment is hard and we have always struggled with communication between departments and from leadership to everyone else. We had these issues before the pandemic and working remotely didn’t make things either better or worse in that area. What I was ACTUALLY upset about is that there have been some changes in our leadership that have left many of us in the dark over our company’s goals and future strategy. It was getting to the point where I was questioning the value of my work at the company and no longer believed in the product I was working on. In my anxiety-fueled frustration I mistakenly thought that if everyone was in the office together, I may have had more clarity about what was going on. This is definitely not the case. My boss and I had a candid conversation about it that made me feel much more secure. Everyone, regardless of their work set-up, has been feeling nervous and in the dark about these changes. It is something that happens at many companies, and since I am still early in my career I haven’t had a lot of experience with it yet, so I didn’t know how to handle it appropriately.

3) Despite realizing that my feelings were fueled by #1 and #2, I did have an issue with the language that my company has been using about our approach to work now. Leadership has been saying we are “remote first” which made me feel like fully remote workers were prioritized over hybrid or full-time in-office workers. After sharing my concerns with several leaders, they actually agreed and have been working to change their messaging so that it is clear that all approaches to working are equally supported.

Thank you for your candid response to my letter. I hope that it helps others with similarly rigid views on this issue. 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.

Update to the update

I just want to thank you for agreeing to post my update as well as for posting the original letter. It has sparked some amazing discussion that has been tough to read at times but also extremely important. I wanted to just add something to my third point to address some comments about me being lonely:

I wasn’t feeling lonely either in the office (plenty of people are around now, and I have even started to form my own little community within the people who prefer the office) or in my personal life (I do actually have a lot of friends! And I consider myself an ambivert, so I also value my alone time). But I felt very alone in my viewpoint. This level of flexibility is new and exciting to most and in reality, I think it’s great. I don’t see myself ever being in the office 5 days a week again and I really enjoy the freedom of being able to work wherever is best for me. However …. just as I was assuming that no one ever wanted to go back to the office, I think many people assume that everyone prefers WFH.

Between my company’s language around WFH and everyone constantly praising WFH, I was getting really tired of hearing how amazing this new situation is when it isn’t actually better for everyone. It certainly isn’t better for me. I sympathize a lot with this letter that you answered back in June that someone referenced in the comments. It describes my feelings in a much kinder way. My company also had an extremely vibrant office culture pre-pandemic with tons of events and I have really missed that. Virtual events just aren’t the same.

What helped me the most, though, was speaking to others and asking them how they felt and what their preferences are. When I did, I found that most people actually prefer a hybrid situation (like me), so I wasn’t actually alone in my feelings at all (just a little dramatic and harsh in how I expressed them). My mentor also made a really great point to me that this situation is still very new and we have a long way to go before we can figure out how to best support everyone’s work styles. This means everything from how we conduct meetings to re-evaluating the purpose of the office itself and how we are spending our time there to ensure that when we are in person, we are actually benefiting from that (if you come into the office just to spend the day in a conference room on Zoom calls, you probably should have just stayed home). I hope that what everyone takes from my original letter is that we all need to be open to and accommodating of everyone’s preferences, whether or not we agree with them. So basically, don’t be like me ;)

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. Lance*

    Well, first: good on you for writing in in the first place, even from a place of difficulty, instead of jumping to trying to change things.

    Second: good on you as well for seeing a way forward through all this — no doubt there’s still a lot of speed bumps and other things to this whole situation we’re all finding ourselves in, and it sounds like you’re getting yourself to a good spot in what you prefer/work best with, while remaining understanding of others’.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Agreed. It’s been a bumpy ride for all of us and it’s hard to adjust. It’s even harder when you feel alone in your opinion. It’s great that you’ve reached out to others and gotten more confidence in both your personal views and where the company is. You even made a change in the company’s communications, which shows the value of speaking directly to the issue.

      One thing to keep in mind: a key issue for many commentators (including me) was not your preference for working onsite, but your desire to require your team to do the same As a manager, the power imbalance between you and your team is there to support the needs of the business. Please be careful about using that balance for your personal needs.

      Good luck!

  2. The Smiling Pug*

    Thank you for these updates! I’m glad to hear that you’re in a better headspace now OP.

  3. Ray Gillette*

    I got in too late to join the thread on the original letter here, but one thing that stood out to me at the time (and that seemed to have gotten glossed over in many of the comments) is that WFH sucks if your only options are a tiny apartment with a roommate, or moving back in with your parents.

    Anyway, I’m glad you wrote in with an update LW, and I’m glad that you got the perspective that you needed.

      1. JM60*

        It’s overlooked by some, but many of us who who vocalize our love of remote work are working from tiny apartments ourselves. I’ve been working out of a small mobile home in a high CoL area that I share with a roommate. I get why it would be a factor for people who don’t like WFH, but I still would never want to return to the office myself because I much prefer WFH in spite of my limited space to live/work from.

        1. The Graduate*

          I’m right there with you. I much prefer working from home in my 500 sq ft studio apartment where my husband is also working from home than to have to deal with my 45 minute commute, catty co-workers, and lots of people asking me for “little favors” all throughout the day. I’m looking forward to seeing a few people at the office, but I’ve been meeting with those people for coffee / lunch for a few months anyway…

    1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      I don’t think anyone in the previous post was berating OP for not wanting to WFH, but the conclusion to ‘I personally don’t like working remote and want to go back to the office” shouldn’t be “therefore, EVERYONE has to come back to the office’ which was very much the tone of the first letter.

      It’s genuinely great if you hate WFH and can feel safe going to the office.
      It sucks if you hate WFH and don’t feel safe going to the office.
      It sucks if you hate WFH and aren’t allowed to go to the office.

      But that wasn’t the issue.

      And, hey, it sucks if you love the office and everyone else prefers to WFH, sure! But forcing everyone to come in if they don’t feel safe is a really, really bad solution to that problem! Calling people liars if they say they’re not comfortable on the subway is a bad solution to that problem. Insisting someone with a newborn needs to be in the office is a bad solution to that problem. Saying ‘if you don’t come in, you don’t care about your career’ is. a bad. solution.

      I am really glad OP has reconsidered some of that stance.

      1. jarofbluefire*

        I agree with Slovenly Braid Cultist’s comment here.

        And as far as I can remember, most of the time when this take on the topic comes up on this site, and the OP gets grief in the comments, it has to do with the implied or outright stated need to *force* OTHERS back into the office. During a pandemic. Because of ‘culture’ or ‘I have a bad WFH situation’ or…. just reasons.

        In each instance, I just have to say that whilst I wish to be kind to those who have had/are having a tough time with the sense of isolation this pandemic can bring to bear, I am quite tired of treating that aspect as somehow having the same weight as the continued need to keep the spread down, so less people get sick/stay sick/die.

        The disease has not gone away, people are still getting sick, people are still dying. Some of us are lucky enough to feel somewhat safer post-vaccine. Many aren’t as lucky.

        That being said: to the OP, I’m really glad you are getting some help with this, and REALLY impressed at your ability to realize when anxiety starts driving the bus!

        1. Sal*


          I empathize with those who suffer from isolation, but I will cop to not having much fire under my butt to “return to normalcy” until I can (at the very least) vaccinate my kids and mitigate the risk of some heretofore-yet-unknown long-term consequence of mild childhood covid infection. I will be pretty mad if anyone’s kids, let alone mine, need, oh, I don’t know, a double lung transplant due to Post-Covid Juvenile Pulmonary Fibrosis in five years because some adults missed in-person work events or “office culture.”

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I absolutely agree. I feel reasonably safe going to the office, but that’s only because my son’s old enough to be vaccinated and he’s had both shots by now. I’m just far more productive at home than at the office, so most of the time, I still prefer to WFH.

          2. Whimsical Gadfly*

            I’ve run into (online only so far) several people still wanting to compare it to chicken pox. And I just want to shake them and ask them about shingles.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        I read the letter as a cry of despair from someone who’d had it up to here with WFH and on top of that was tired of being inundated with constant talk of how great WFH is. I also think Alison whiffed on the title. The title reads, “I’m frustrated that my employees don’t want to return to the office,” but the body of the letter makes clear that these are her coworkers, NOT her employees, and she doesn’t have the power to compel them to do anything. If she were actually the manager or owner and was the one setting policy, a harsher response would have been understandable.

        1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          She specifically complained that her two reports were not coming back to the office and that her boss would not “back her up” and insist that they do.

          And even if one were more worried about peers… That wouldn’t make it better? Contempt for your coworkers because they’re “out of excuses” and “don’t care about their careers” is not a good look either.

      3. T2*

        At my company, next week we are clearing out the 3,000 square foot of office space next week. We are permanently work from home. We are renting a small office and a conference room for our sales guy. Essentially the difference is that $4500 a month in office overhead will become $750 a month. And the rest goes to bonuses.

        I don’t think I will ever work in an office ever again.

    2. Anonymous pineapple*

      Yes! Not everyone has a dedicated work space at home and not every company is willing to provide/reimburse a desk, chair, monitors, etc etc that are needed for a productive at-home setup.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        This describes the situation with my partner and I in a nutshell. 2BR house, a little one, and her being fully remote since 2018 means I have to use a folding table and metal folding chair in the basement on my remote days.

      2. Well...*

        My husband and I worked in a studio apartment in Barcelona for six weeks of only being permitted to go outside for groceries, not exercise or fresh air. Stores closed before we could get chairs or office supplies. We worked on folding chairs until we could get things delivered.

        Then I had to move to the UK for my job and we were separated by an effectively closed border for nine months (neither of us being EU citizens and Spanish visa bureaucracy grinding to a halt).

        I’m really sick of people celebrating WFH and glossing over how isolating this whole experience has been for some people, and how difficult it’s been to be productive and fulfilled at work under these circumstances.

    3. HoHumDrum*

      yeah, I think the real issue with these conversations is either camp tends to talk about their position as being beneficial for everyone and in reality it varies greatly by person. I live in a small space with no private area for work, and I personally like my commute. Also I’m reeeeaaal tired of paying for my electricity and AC during the day. The guy in accounting with a big home in the suburbs who has a dedicated office space and hated fighting traffic to get into the city everyday has a different calculus for enjoying wfh. Neither one of us is more correct than the other, and we need to acknowledge each other positions if we really want to improve things.

      1. LizM*

        This is a really important point that I think really gets lost in the discussion.

        There are real, financial costs to WFH. Some people are in a much better position to absorb those costs than others, or the costs are offset by some of the savings (commute, dry cleaning, more expensive wardrobe).

        My husband’s state agency will probably never go back full time. While he was out, his Division downsized from three stories of an expensive downtown building to 1. Same number of employees. We are expecting another child, and the house we thought would be big enough for a family of our size is not if we have to devote an entire room to his office, so we’re now shopping for a bigger house. I’m back at the office, not because I’m 100% comfortable with the COVID risk, but because I was losing my mind trying to work from our kitchen table and constantly having to move kid stuff so I could have a clear space.

        We can afford a new house, and there’s a good chance we would have decided to upgrade now anyway (a bigger house would be nice, but not necessary if we didn’t need a study), but a part of me can’t help be a little resentful that his agency cut it’s office building costs by 2/3, but there is zero acknowledgement to the cost to employees, and it’s being sold as a benefit to him that he should be grateful for. (Especially because he ended up having to take a temporary pay cut last year due to forecasted budget cuts that never came to fruition.)

      2. JB*

        “yeah, I think the real issue with these conversations is either camp tends to talk about their position as being beneficial for everyone”

        Do they? As someone who prefers to work in the office – I really haven’t heard WFHers say anything like ‘everyone should work from home’.

        I HAVE heard a lot of ‘I’m so much more productive from home’, including from coworkers about whom I know this not to be true. A lot of the time it seems to mean ‘I can get a lot more of the tasks I enjoy done from home, because someone else is picking up my more tedious tasks that can only be done in the office’.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Yeah, there was a lot of argument in certain circles I travel in on social media that wfh is the cure to labor problems and vastly superior and the only reason to work in an office is so your boss can micromanage you. A lot of people focus on getting the commute time back and having a lot more flexibility & freedom in planning your day. This was a popular talking point pre-pandemic, and so when a huge group of us were suddenly sent home and nothing collapsed it blew up as proof that there is no need for offices anymore. I even saw people on Twitter saying if you want to go back to the office you’re some kind of suck up bootlicker.

          Obviously social media is a bubble and YMMV, but yeah, I did see people get really, really intense about this argument and make a lot of declarative blanket statements about everyone.

    4. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

      Yes exactly — my company is a start-up in a major city where we have a large amount of tech employees / engineers, and then many lower-level employees who are paid fairly for their role (think: publishing / media – adjacent), but certainly nowhere near the engineer salaries.
      What a surprise when managers / engineers were praising the benefits of WFH from their larger living spaces, whereas those of us plebes living with multiple roommates or in small studios (if we were lucky!) were feeling more stressed about WFH during the pandemic, and have been the first ones to voluntarily report back to the office.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      About 1/4 of my team is of the small studio/shared housing variety, and we let them come back into the office as soon as it was allowed by public health guidance and they wanted to be there. The rest are pretty happy to WFH and only come in when there’s a business need for it. We’ve accommodated both. That was not OP’s original complaint – they expected everyone to want to come in because they did. (And I’m really impressed to go from that to the level of introspection and self-awareness that they show in this update.)

    6. Well...*

      Yes, this. WFH has been difficult for a lot of people, me included. My life has gotten much better since we’ve returned to in-person work.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      OMG this. I had to go back to the office, anyway, because of the nature of the job but I don’t have room to set up a dedicated WFH space at home.

      However, I don’t care if other people want to work from home. Have at it, y’all.

      I am, though, pretty tired of hearing about how great it is. It’s not, always. It’s uncomfortable, the lighting is weird, and I really do not like having work stuff in my personal, non-work space because a) I’d rather use that space for something else and b) I don’t want my job at home.

      1. Scarlet2*

        People are still allowed to say how great it is *for them* though. The point should be that different situations work for different people…
        I think the reason so many people are praising WFH is also because a lot of us have been waiting for this type of flexibility for ages and when we finally got it because of the pandemic, we didn’t want to lose it anymore. Working in the office used to be “the norm”, often for no better reason than butts-in-seats-are-the-way-it’s-done.

  4. Christine*

    I think “don’t be like me” is a little harsh on yourself! You were in a bad spot but you stepped back, figured out the real problems, and dug in on how to fix those. That’s not such a bad thing. I’m glad you’ve started getting some clarity around what’s going on with your company and your own needs.

    Also, I’d like to hire a skywriter to inscribe this in the sky above my department’s leadership: “This means everything from how we conduct meetings to re-evaluating the purpose of the office itself and how we are spending our time there to ensure that when we are in person, we are actually benefiting from that (if you come into the office just to spend the day in a conference room on Zoom calls, you probably should have just stayed home).”

    Yes, it would be lengthy, but we are doing *exactly* that, coming into the office and only communicating via IM and Zoom. I barely see my coworkers when we’re in the office! Commuting feels like such a waste of time and energy.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      All of this. OP, it’s so amazing that you stepped back and re-evaluated what was fueling those feelings and that you are in a better place, now. I’m glad for you!

      1. Anonym*

        Exactly! We should all be like you, OP, in recognizing when we’re feeling/thinking off, asking for perspective and help, listening to others and putting in the work to get ourselves back into a better place. I’m super impressed by you, and grateful for you sharing your process. Best of luck to you (and us all) in navigating this strange situation we still find ourselves in!

    2. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Yes, this, 100%! OP, you did a great job of identifying the root cause of your concerns and working towards real resolution and not just a patch. That’s fantastic, well done you!

    3. ecnaseener*

      Yes. Obviously I would prefer to never be wrong, but short of that I hope next time I’m wrong I’ll be EXACTLY like you LW :)

    4. Quinalla*

      Yes we are in process of figuring out all of this as well as my work too is committed to not ever going back to required 5 days a week in the office for everyone (with limited flexibility like we had before to occasionally work from home). It is a lot to figure out as some will want to be in the office 5 days a week with occasional flexibility, some will want to WFH full time with a trip to the office occasionally and I think the vast majority will settle into 2-3 days a week in the office. How to maximize that office time, include fully remote workers, etc. is going to take awhile to sort out once we get back to new normal. We still aren’t there yet, but once kids are able to vaccinated we’ll be closer!

    5. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, the benefit of being in office for me would be in person meetings. But because my office only has small conference rooms and is limiting the number of people allowed in a room at a time, most meetings that I might want to attend are virtual anyway. My coworkers in the office attend from their desks. How is that valuable, especially if I’m risking my (and my unvaxed kid’s) health?

    6. Tali*

      Exactly! I went into the office yesterday to type on my computer, use email, Zoom… what is the point?
      It’s great that the office is actually evaluating how time is spent and how communication is done, rather than just letting things coast along.

    7. Aj Crowley*

      Agreed! It takes quite a bit of internal strength to recognize a problem, utilize resources (AAM, psychiatrist, self-reflection, meeting with bosses) to dig into it especially when some of what is reflected back isn’t so great. Then it takes guts to own up and change.

      Anxiety puts us in a silo with nothing but our magnified and fearful thoughts. Depression makes it hard to see a way out. OP had a mountain to climb and they did it.

  5. Been there, done that*

    This is the best update I have read in a long time! And it’s so refreshing for someone to have the self-awareness and ability to step back and “own” a situation rather than just assign the blame to all other parties. Kudos to the OP for being able to acknowledge this. Their employer is fortunate to have them!

  6. Purple Cat*

    Thanks for coming back with these updates!
    You’re showing a lot of maturity in sharing your vulnerability.
    The dialogue on this site is so helpful in understanding different perspectives.

  7. anonymous73*

    Your original letter definitely struck a nerve for me in the fact that it took on the “what’s the big deal” attitude that many anti-vaxxers and those minimizing COVID have had, and a lot of us who have been following protocols and being extra careful are over it. But I’m glad that you were able to determine why you felt that way and have moved towards getting better. Hope things continue to look up for you.

    1. Well...*

      Yes, but the comments on the original post also touched a nerve for me with how the change the pandemic brought to OP’s office were shrugged off as “so many of us like WFH!” Like a lot of people have had a rough time in the pandemic, and WFH isn’t easy for a lot of people who don’t have a ton of space at home or who were separated from loved ones for months/years (a comment about building a social life outside work really bugged me like… That’s not easy during a lockdown!). I’m not saying people should be forced back, but cut people some slack for being frustrating and missing the pre-pandemic world.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        This is a bit of a false dichotomy (i.e., people who like WFH are enjoying life through the pandemic, while those who don’t are suffering). I’m not sure if that’s what you think or you’re just framing it that way.

        Work location is just one factor. All of us had to live life knowing that we could be passing on a deadly virus. Almost all of us had to live through lockdowns, social isolation, and the uncertainty. And no one group has the monopoly on wanting this pandemic to be over.

        So, yes, let’s give grace to people who had it harder for whatever reason. And let’s also give grace to those of us who are finding silver linings and understand when someone expresses a desire to *force* someone else to give up something that made life better, “just because”, that there’s reasonably going to be serious pushback against that idea.

        It’s entirely r

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          …it’s entirely reasonable to say “I thrive in WFH” when someone says, “I want everyone to come back to the office because it will make me feel better”, which was the sentiment in the original letter.

      2. anonymous73*

        It was more than the original letter writer just being frustrated about people not wanting to go back to the office. It was her whole attitude of downplaying the pandemic situation. I will cut people some slack when they’re not judgmental about those who don’t share their views on the situation surrounding the pandemic. I am well aware that not everyone thrives when working from home. But during this last year and a half (plus), we have proven that most businesses are capable of having their staff work from home, so things are going to need to change moving forward if businesses don’t want to lose staff if they force everyone back to the office full time.

      3. JB*

        Everyone’s frustrated. Everyone misses the pre-pandemic world in some way or another. People who prefer to work in the office aren’t somehow uniquely affected, and we (I say we, as I am someone who prefers to work in-office myself) are adults who have full responsibility for how we handle our emotions.

        Being frustrated is fine. Missing a lively office is fine. Blaming the people who choose to work remotely, regardless of why they choose to do so, is NOT fine.

        1. Scarlet2*

          I love WFH, but I definitely wouldn’t say I “thrived” in pandemic times. I missed seeing my friends, going to concerts, eating out, etc. It was very isolating at times and I went for months without seeing my family. What I did not miss however, was being forced to drag myself to the office for no good reason.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Same. I love WFH. I’d like to WFH part time forever. The fact that my grandfather passed away in March 2021 (from complications of being really old, not from covid) and I hadn’t seen him in a year and he never met my second child born March 2020 because of covid precautions… yeah that’s not awesome. I don’t think anyone is truly out there like “I wish it could be pandemic all the time” but the fact that it opened up some great possibilities doesn’t need to be ignored.

  8. Nanani*

    Good update, and I’m glad LW has both the support and perspective necessary to recover from the place they were at when they wrote in.

    However, the ending of the second update leaves a sour note.
    This is not really about -preferences-. The pandemic isn’t over. It’s not really about extroversion, it’s about COVID risk tolerance.

    Yes, going forward a lot of people won’t want to go back to the office and the proof that their job is perfectly fine remote will be useful for their case. But right now, that’s not where anybody is it.
    Just because some people pretend otherwise (or personally don’t feel the effects/have gotten used it) doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.
    I just don’t want that point to be lost or glossed over – it’s at least as important as recognizing feelings about remote work as a concept.

    1. Loulou*

      I would say it’s about both preferences and risk tolerance. There are plenty of people, including on this forum and no doubt in OP’s office, who are very upfront about the fact that even post-pandemic they will not be willing to work in an office again. And that does affect how people feel about the “right now” moment too — it makes a difference if the remote/hybrid limbo some offices are in is a temporary emergency measure, or the new normal going forward. It’s a lot easier to have perspective on a situation that is not working for you if it’s an extraordinary emergency thing instead of just the way things are now.

      1. Nanani*

        You’re not wrong!
        I just don’t see any acknowledgement in the updates about the pandemic at all though, even though that was a key component of the response to the original letter.
        Some people have higher risk than others and the pandemic just, still is a thing.

        It’s important to keep this reality in mind and not make it all about individual feelings and preferences.
        It’s not that preferences and feelings don’t matter, it’s that a major constraint is in place and you can’t ignore that.
        The situation isn’t done being an extraordinary emergency,is the point.
        I hope I’m making sense.

        1. Loulou*

          You are making sense, and I agree! I’m just pointing out that I think the fact that many people will want to continue WFH even after the emergency truly has passed could be a factor in how OP was feeling.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          That may be a location based mentality. IIRC the LW was based in NYC, and right now in the city over 70% of adults are vaccinated and the rate of positive tests coming back are under 1% in all 5 boroughs. A lot of folks in the city are pretty close to feeling back to “normal” and even people I know who have kids or at risk family members are doing things now that they never would have considered last year due to the vaccine mandates and the low rates of transmission.

          That is not to say that means the LW shouldn’t still be thinking about the fact that her coworkers are still validly worried about risk (especially if they live with folks who cannot yet be vaccinated) but just to add the context that I can imagine why the LW might not be thinking about risk concern as much. Not saying it’s fine, just saying in NYC right now it’s a very different situation than other areas.

          1. successor state*

            I would agree with that if LW’s first post didn’t say that they went back to the office voluntarily before vaccines were even available. I doubt location and positive rates play into this now if they didn’t before. It’s fair to say the LW was minimizing the pandemic, because they were assigning character flaws to their coworkers instead of acknowledging people might have valid reasons to prefer staying home.

            Either way, seems like they’re making some progress on being more understanding of other people and their circumstances which is great.

            1. Colette*

              This isn’t warranted.

              The OP made a decision that going back to the office was better for her than being at home – even before vaccines were available. And for some people, that’s true, especially in offices where there very few people working in person. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t taking the pandemic seriously.

              1. HoHumDrum*

                Yeah I mean I had to go back into work before vaccines were available, and I was happy about it because it did improve my mental health. That happiness didn’t equate to me taking other risks, or deciding to throw caution to the wind otherwise.

              2. successor state*

                Yes, I agree that her going back to the office early doesn’t mean she wasn’t taking the pandemic seri0usly. But referring to her coworkers as “not taking their careers seriously” and saying people are “running out of excuses” for not coming back to the office *is* minimizing the role of the pandemic in these decisions, and I don’t think it’s unfair to highlight it here.

    2. Berin*

      Being real, I don’t think anyone has forgotten that the pandemic is still happening, and I didn’t get that from OP’s letter. There is in fact some preference vs necessity at this point; we have really effective vaccines, boosters for those who qualify, we understand a lot more how this disease is spread, and many, many companies have vaccine mandates or rigorous testing protocols in place that simply weren’t there when (mostly white-collar) jobs went remote. I imagine that with the news that vaccines for children are about to be rolled out, this will become even more about preference than necessity in the coming months.

      Maybe this is just how I took it, but it’s a huge paradigm shift to go from a temporary “we’re working from home because we absolutely have to” mindset to a more permanent “this is just how it is from now on” mindset. OP’s original letter made me think that she was grappling with that more than ignoring the pandemic, and her update has similar vibes.

      1. no name today*

        In the US we are dealing with breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people, so mandates aren’t a magic cure-all. My employer has vax/mask mandates and we get notices of infections onsite almost daily. My *preference* is to not catch covid at all, because staying alive and functional is a *necessity*, and WFH is by far the best option for that.

        1. Berin*

          Absolutely, breakthrough cases happen! Vaccinations vastly decrease the chances that those breakthrough cases will result in anything more serious than mild symptoms. Vaccines have never been a magical cure-all, and it would be unreasonable to suggest otherwise. But Covid is going to become endemic in the coming months – if the expectation is that there will be absolutely no spread of Covid in order to safely come back to work, that is unfortunately not a realistic goal either.

          WFH is the best option for you – I respect that! For an absolute ton of people, it’s not the best option, and for another ton of people, it’s not an option at all. I do not think it’s unreasonable to expect people to accept that the vaccines are working to lower community spread, and that WFH was for a lot of companies not intended to be permanent.

          (I should add the caveat that I am talking about populations where the vaccine is widely and easily available, and where community spread is minimal – OP states that she is in NYC, where community spread is less than 3% currently).

        2. eggman*

          I got a breakthrough infection and I’m fully in person (research role with not much that can be done from home.) My whole team is vaccinated and we are required to wear masks, and no one caught it from me. We have a 20 minute in person meeting each morning and I was onsite for my whole infectious period. No one else got sick, no one else needed to quarantine. Obviously this is just anecdotal, but I hope I can reassure some people that breakthrough infections occur but that it won’t necessarily spread at work!

      2. JM60*

        I didn’t get that from OP’s letter. There is in fact some preference vs necessity at this point; we have really effective vaccines

        We now are at the point where we have really effective vaccines, but the OP stated in the original letter that they went back to the office before these vaccines were available. Even if they didn’t want to force their employees to return to the office at that point, they were still making a decision that was affecting others they come into contact with (at least their roommate).

        1. Berin*

          I think that’s moving the goalposts a little bit for OP. She made a decision that she acknowledged was solely for herself while vaccines were not available; now that vaccines are widely available and community spread is below 3% (both milestones that health experts, epidemiologists, etc. state are necessary to begin to return to work/activities), she wants to know why the WFH paradigm isn’t shifting back to in-person. That’s a fair question for OP to ask! It’s also fair for her coworkers to decide that WFH is better/more productive for them, and fair for the company she works for to not require their staff to return yet or to opt to maintain a hybrid model.

          Frankly OP’s question is one that I’ve had too – while I fully acknowledge the ongoing pandemic (I worked in our Incident Command center at our hospital dealing with COVID for the last year and a half), there are a lot of areas in the US where vaccination rates are high enough and community spread is low enough that we can safely resume some pre-pandemic activities. We will continue to progress toward this state once vaccines for children over the age of 5 yrs are rolled out. Health experts have given us milestones for resumption of pre-pandemic activities, and I think it’s reasonable to want to follow (and celebrate!) when we hit those milestones (as NYC has), while acknowledging that we need to remain vigilant to ensure that community spread does not creep back up.

      3. Ismonie*

        I definitely have friends in NY who think it’s all over. And the vaccines that are coming out for kids still aren’t for my kid. Those under 5 probably won’t see a vaccine until 2022.

      4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        “Being real, I don’t think anyone has forgotten that the pandemic is still happening…”

        (Looks around at the anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters around the world)



        1. Berin*

          Apologies, maybe should have clarified that I don’t think anyone *here* has forgotten that the pandemic is still ongoing – I don’t always closely peruse the comment sections, but it really does seem like most of the AAM community has been very active in minimizing spread risk and adhering to medical guidelines (for which I am eternally grateful!).

          But yes, I also enjoy a good laugh (cry) from all the anti-vax/anti-mask BS. Incredibly depressing.

    3. Cat Lover*

      Hmmm, I would say it’s both! There are a lot of places where the risk is relatively lower and everyone is having to make personal decisions on what is best for them!

    4. Hex Libris*

      Yeah, I got a “living in a bubble” response when I said this in the original comment section. Some people want to get back to normal so badly it’s short circuiting their reasoning, not to mention their empathy. I’m glad LW was able to take a step back and take a different view.

    5. New But Not New*

      Nanani, you hit the nail on the head, risk tolerance. I’m not feeling safe all day indoors unless I know the HVAC system has been modified to incorporate more outside air, full stop. My preference has nothing to do with it. Contract tracing has been woefully in this supposedly advanced country we live in, so it’s still hit and miss with who has it and can give it to me.

    6. Nodramalama*

      I disagree and think that’s a bit of an unfair characterisation of LWs comments. I think a lot of people out there have seen the pandemic as signifying a long lasting change to work culture where working from home is becoming both the norm and the preferred style of work that they expect will continue, rather than a temporary response to a pandemic. And that might be something a lot of people want, and those people are vocal, but it is by no means how everyone feels or an expectation that every workplace is willing to meet. I know my work place is currently flexible, but in a few months we will go back to a position where it is expected that everyone will be back in the office unless they have a flexible work agreement in place.

      1. Berin*

        I’m not sure how I’m being unfair to OP; that’s how I read both her letter and her update, and she acknowledges that her wanting people back in the office is because she was feeling insecure about how her working life was going to look moving forward. I feel that is a reasonable stance to take at this point in the pandemic in NYC.

        I definitely agree that a lot of people who started working from home during the pandemic now feel that it should be the norm, and that makes sense, bc there are a ton of perks for WFH, and so many people have been able to remain or become more productive while doing so. I also think a lot of people always saw it as temporary, including a lot of people who run businesses, and so I see the other side, of wanting clarity about how work will look as we move forward.

        All of that to say, I’m not sure how we disagree, or how I’m being unfair to OP.

    7. George*


      The pandemic is not over. The virus is still mutating. We have no idea how effective vaccines will continue to be, and many who are technically “fully” vaxxed face lower – or nil – protection from those vaccines, through no fault of their own.

      I’m befuddled by people who act like everything is fine now and we can all just get back to the old status quo. A status quo that served very few of us well, and made most of us miserable, if not actually sick.

      1. allathian*

        I don’t think we can ever go back to the old status quo, and there’s no sense in doing so, either. But I don’t think pandemics are the only reason to allow WFH, either. Covid is here to stay, and it’s going to be endemic from now on, just like influenza, which kills about a quarter of a million people worldwide each year. Granted, that’s nowhere near the currently confirmed 5 million covid deaths, which is a low estimate given the unknown but probably large number of people who’ve died without getting a diagnosis.

  9. Katie N.*

    I was tapering off my antidepressants when one of my direct reports gave her notice. Not only did I get super emotional when she told me, but I could not stop crying all day! At one point she was walking to the restroom and saw me on a couch crying with my closest work friend. She looked so alarmed and I had to say, “I’m so sorry! I’m changing my medication and this is one of the side effects. I’m not really that upset! I’m happy for your new opportunity!” I’m not sure she believed me (though she did use me as a reference recently). It was just mortifying.

    Anxiety/depression meds are no joke and they can totally affect work. Hang in there, OP!

  10. EverthingIsFine*

    “My anxiety often causes me to make incorrect assumptions about people and their behaviors which further fuels the anxiety.” Boy did I feel this! You’re not alone in this anxiety cycle, OP. My therapist has trained me to now to ask “Is it real? Is it true?” when I start spiraling. It (occasionally) helps.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Which leads to one of the best pieces of advice I ever received: react to a person’s behavior, not your internal thoughts on why they are exhibiting that behavior.

    2. 2 Cents*

      As a longtime sufferer of depression and anxiety, whenever I’m in depression’s grip, my mantra is “Depression lies.” It helps for when I think the grocery store clerk is laughing at me or I think the world is ending (neither are true).

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I love “Is this real? Is this true?” My touchstone phrase comes from Brene Brown and is — “What is the story I’m telling myself?”

  11. Mia*

    I’m really proud of you OP for digging in on why you felt a certain way. I struggle with anxiety too and I completely understand where you’re coming from. You handled this situation really well and should be very proud of yourself at the outcome. Good job!

  12. CBB*

    The point you made about this all being very new is relevant. It feels like it’s been forever since the pandemic started, but it really hasn’t.

    Most organizations are still finding their footing with remote work. If some of us feel a lack of vibrant culture, it’s probably not because vibrant culture isn’t possible in a remote workforce. More likely it’s that we’ve yet to settle on tools and practices to make a strong sense of culture possible, or still getting accustomed to what remote work culture looks like.

    1. Nanani*

      Well, yes, but also face to face events aren’t possible in a pandemic.
      A lot of places are still closed or social distanced, and a lot of people have people in their families and close circles that are at higher risk.

      We can’t settle on how to have community in a remote environment while that REALLY BIG COMPONENT is still constraining people’s preferences.

      1. Loulou*

        I mean…face to face events ARE possible, and are happening in workplaces around the world right now. Personally I’m opting out of optional indoor social activities for the time being, and clearly I’m not the only one, but there are absolutely workplaces offering modified forms of the social events they used to offer.

        1. Nanani*

          Okay, I should have said not possible for -everyone-.
          The response to the original letter definitely pointed out that some people are immunocompromised and/or have people in their close circles who are and just can’t risk face to face -anything-. Not to mention that vaccine rollout isn’t equal in all countries and regions.
          Yet these updates don’t mention acknowledgement of the *ongoing* pandemic at all.

          Yes OP did make good realizations and they aren’t wrong!
          but there’s just one big piece not being mentioned, which is important.

          1. Aj Crowley*

            But this is about the OP. Her update reflects her own journey. The risks of the pandemic are salient to many of us (myself included!) but for OP, it wasn’t the risks that made the difference in her thinking. It was recognizing that this is how her anxiety and depression were re-emerging when she tried to taper her meds. Her journey doesn’t need to be a PSA that the pandemic isn’t over and there are still risks.

        2. Texas*

          Well, people have been holding events throughout the entirety of the pandemic so far, so just because it’s happening doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

  13. Anya Last Nerve*

    Thanks for the update – I didn’t chime in our your original post but I knew you would get skewered in the comments. I don’t want to go back to the office 5 days a week, but I do want to go back to the office and I think there are intangible benefits to employees going in. I do wonder if it’s really that most people want to wfh forever, or if the ones who want full time wfh are just the loudest.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Honestly as one of them, I think we’re just the loudest. Lots do, lots don’t. From my perspective, being fully remote was so rare (and mistrusted) before so we’re fighting hard to legitimize it and hold onto this shift. What was widely considered “impossible” IS possible, please don’t roll it back! I recognize it doesn’t benefit everyone, for lots of reasons.

      1. Amaranth*

        I think it also gets more attention because its a change and requires new thinking. Also, some businesses are showing more flexibililty and trust than others.

    2. Archie Goodwin*

      I think this is where I land – although I have been happy being back in the office full-time.

      I’m not against work-from-home – just the opposite, in fact, if you’re the sort of person who’s comfortable with it. Thing is…I’m not. I do much better work in the office than at home. And it’s seemed to me that that perspective is often being overlooked in long-term planning. At least around here (the conversations I hear in the DC area), it’s been zero-sum: let’s set up work from home ALL the time, with in-office as needed. That’s REALLY not a good setup for me…I think some kind of hybrid model, which accommodates all comers, is the best way to go. And I haven’t heard much talk about it. So I can see how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole of feeling that your needs aren’t being met, if that makes any sense…it’s a perspective that feels often overlooked.

      1. Dragon*

        Some people need flexibility, rather than hybrid. Being able to WFH on Tuesday and Wednesday doesn’t help if it’s Thursday you need at home.

        Personally I’d like the option to schedule an occasional WFH day, when there’s an after-work event that’s closer to my home. I could take a vacation day, but why lose a day’s work when I don’t really need to?

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          Oh, I agree. I have the flexibility if I need it, and it’s great. But as a more permanent way of life it really gives me headaches.

        2. I Faught the Law*

          I LOATHE my office’s new hybrid schedule. They have me working from home on Mondays and Thursdays, which makes the week feel interminable – it’s like starting the week three different times. And as someone with anxiety and DSPD, it’s wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule and mental health. The logical thing to do would be to suck it up and just come in on my remote days, but after a nearly two year pandemic, I have neither the physical stamina nor the mental energy to make myself do anything I don’t absolutely have to.

          My department is already reporting that its productivity is down compared to both WFH and fully onsite work, so chances are this isn’t going to last very long, anyway.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This is the case in my office. The people doing the loudest complaining about being back in the office are the ones that didn’t want to come back in at all. And they just will not shut up about it.

      Do I wish I could be hybrid – yes. But I’m not going to talk a lot about that while my manager is getting grief for a decision that is not in her power to change. I think a lot of us could probably use reminding at times that not all of us think the same about any topic.

    4. Allonge*

      Probably the loudest and also – some people built up this ‘the office is Horrible and I will Not Survive Returning even for one day per week’ picture in their minds over the last months, and when tested, it turns out to be as far from reality as the ‘nobody will actually work from home, the slackers’.

      In places where the safety measures are taken seriously, it can be fairly easy to get to a place where a hybrid schedule is ok after all.

      1. allathian*

        Perhaps. Many people also feel that having to wear a mask and keep your distance takes away all the benefits of being in person. I’m from a culture where we tend to keep a large personal space anyway, so distance is not an issue, but wearing a mask while attempting to work doesn’t work for me. I haven’t found one that’s comfortable to wear while sitting at the computer, because my glasses always fog up no matter what I do. I can’t wear contacts, partly because I have a phobia about putting things in my eyes and partly because I need a different prescription for daily life and for looking at a screen. Luckily covid numbers are good enough in my area that my employer isn’t mandating masks for sitting at your desk, and we can eat and drink coffee together (although there’s no pressure to do so if you need to protect yourself or your loved ones). I do wear a mask at the office when I’m anywhere other than at my desk or eating/drinking, but if I had to wear it at my desk, I would hate to go in and wouldn’t do it unless they threatened to write me up if I refused. I’m in a two-person office, and so far I haven’t been in to the office on the same day as my coworker.

    5. Feline*

      I think they’re sometimes loudest, depending on the organization. Our company did a survey and insisted that it showed a strong preference or people to be in the office several days a week. When push came to shove, evidence stacked up that it simply wasn’t the truth. Employees wanted to WFH full time and passively resisted returning to the office. Sometimes, loudest speaks the truth of the majority. And sometimes the “survey” was apparently done around an upper management meeting and gets attributed to the whole.

    6. no name today*

      My workplace is an academic library, in a university that believes having vax/mask mandates means covid is controlled and breakthrough infections are the employees fault/problem. Having 10,000+ young adults milling around, trying to evade mask police and attending uncounted non-masked parties & gatherings, is a danger to everyone, yet we’re expected to work as if everything is fine.
      I’d love to WFH for the rest of my life, but I can’t. I’d love to feel safe working the hours I am required to in-person, but I can’t.
      So yeah, I’m going to be very loud about maintaining WFH options until they do become permanent, or catching a breakthrough case of covid isn’t a potential death sentence (or lifetime disability).

    7. no name today*

      Silences implies consent, so maybe your colleagues are making sure they aren’t misrepresented.

  14. Bookworm*

    Thanks for the update, OP! So nice to see one so soon and ultimately I’m very glad that your organization was willing to have these conversations with you. This remains a tough time for *everyone* and it’s really good to hear that your workplace was willing to talk openly about it. Let’s just say I’m familiar with an organization that isn’t (and I would say we had an opposite problem of people not feeling ready to return and management ignoring our concerns, which came to pass when the variants started becoming more serious) and am very happy that this isn’t the case for you.

    Do hope your organization works more in finding a setup that works for you and and the workforce as a whole. I do understand the pros and cons of all (remote, hybrid, in-office, etc.) so I’d be curious if someday if you’re willing to update us again on what your organization decides to do. Good luck!!

  15. PT*

    Re the WFH: I don’t think everyone loves WFH. I think the people who love WFH are just really vocal about it, because they want it to stay. Both my husband (academia) and my sister (healthcare) have had a ton of challenges being remote and prefer to be in person, though they were thankful to be able to continue working through previous COVID peaks, without risking exposure and still getting paid and remaining productive.

    1. Loulou*

      Yup, I think remote work boosters were really loud even before the pandemic. A lot of commenters here had pretty strong views about telework that did not match my own experience of how common it was IRL, and obviously the shift to remote work has left many of them feeling vindicated in their pro-remote stance.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “A lot of commenters here had pretty strong views about telework that did not match my own experience of how common it was IRL”

        YEP! Most people in my office want to be back in some capacity, even if they aren’t ready ~yet~. And WFH was a brand new concept for most of them. It’s not as ubiquitous and one sided as the narrative may suggest.

      2. Oakenshield*

        I am one of those pre-pandemic pro-remote commenters… however I didn’t swing so wide as to think my preferences as an extreme introvert and perfume-allergic person were for everyone. IMO giving the employees the choice if possible is the sweet spot. I think the vindication comes from seeing anti-remote employers discover that remote workers can be just as/more productive, which they never would have risked finding out before.

    2. Anony*

      I think the people advocating for a long term shift to work from home forever, regardless of the public health context, are actually from (a) higher on average socioeconomic status than those who don’t want WFH forever, because we just don’t have the conditions at home, and (b) working in a smaller pool of sectors than it seems. In many fields, WFH makes doing what needs to be done less effective, more challenging or even impossible. Yes, we’ve done it because pandemic, but despite the Anti Hard Pants movement, it’s just not feasible long term. Almost all of my coworkers and I are happy to be back in office when safe.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This has been the case for the department that I work in. We can do our jobs completely from home, training is a bit harder when new things roll out, but realistically we can WFH. The problem is we are the designated back-up for another department that because of what they do need to be in person. So because of that our department has been brought back in – because when they need back-ups they need them immediately, not in 35ish minutes when you get to the facility. It’s the nature of the job – and they are really clear in interviews (we’ve had a bunch of people accept promotions so are building the team back up again) that this is an inperson position due to our backup and support responsibilities.

    3. After 33 years ...*

      Yes, it hasn’t been ideal for university teaching from my perspective.
      Slightly less than half my students disliked remote learning initially, and have increasingly grown to dislike it.
      Slightly less than half my students liked remote learning initially, and have increasingly grown accustomed to it.
      The other students are ambivalent.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think the people who love WFH are just really vocal about it, because they want it to stay.

      It’s not just that; it’s also that pre-pandemic, many remotes had to fight tooth and nail for it and were always at the mercy of getting a butt-in-seat manager to revoke it at any whim. We’re used to fighting for it; that’s part of our normal.

      1. New But Not New*

        Yep, I had to fight for a work from home accommodation despite having a medically certified disability! Butt-in-seat mentality is hard to overcome. Have been happily working many years now exclusively from home, it has enable me to continue participating in the workforce and to be productive, which is good for my mental and physical health, not to mention finances! Some of us need to work at home and it has nothing to do with personality or preference.

  16. zebra*

    I just want to say thanks to the LW for being so open to this feedback and for writing in with your reactions, as well as thanks to Alison for publishing both updates. It’s so interesting and valuable to follow along on the journey and see how someone processes the (probably overwhelming volume!) of comment advice, figures out which parts are useful, and incorporates some new changes. This is a great example of how to accept constructive criticism and learn to change.

  17. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    Oof, I really appreciate you saying #1, OP! I also tend to look at things through “anxiety lens” without realizing it. I admire your willingness to examine your assumptions about others and I think that’s something a lot of people can learn from.

  18. lunchtime caller*

    I appreciate the self-awareness this update has! It’s so easy for depression/anxiety brain to go from “I’m alone in this particular feeling about this particular issue that doesn’t have to be that emotionally charged” straight to “–much like how I am alone in ALL of my feelings, because I’m a weird freak which is something my coworkers have surely noticed, and so when they talk about liking xyz they’re also thinking to themselves that I’m a loser” which can sometimes take a little turn at “I don’t deserve to feel like a weird freak and/or a loser at work, why are my coworkers making me feel that way” which skips right past the exit for “ah, it was My Brain the entire time.” Anyway, the point is that I do not at all get the feeling that you’re erasing concerns about pandemic safety, and I’m glad you’re getting more help!

  19. christopher*

    I love this update! OP, I’m glad you were able to get perspective on this and be so circumspect about all of the feedback you received. It’s wonderful that you have the support of your friends, your office leadership, and your therapist. You sound like you’re going to do wonderfully, and I’m so happy for you.

  20. WantonSeedStitch*

    Hey, LW! Good for you for digging into your own feelings and getting to the roots. That kind of self-awareness takes work.

  21. Mama Sarah*

    I appreciate the honest and civil discussion about WFH, hybrid approaches, and all the processing this seems to have evoked. There are SO many intrinsic benefits to WFH (at least for me!) yet I felt really guilty about how many of my peers were told to report in daily. I also really appreciate the comments regarding “what it means to be in the office”. Thank you, OP, for your candor and lovely writing.

  22. clearlyMillennial*

    i love this kind of update. Glad to hear things are going well. Take care of yourself!

  23. Alice*

    Kudos to OP for re-thinking things and for communicating with your manager about your concerns. Everyone *should* be like you in terms of reflecting on our thoughts and reactions!

    I will note that various WFH preferences are reasonable, but COVID safety isn’t really a “preferences vary” matter.
    Some of my colleagues prefer not to wear masks in our open office, and they don’t care that they have officemates with unvaxxed young kids and immunocompromised elderly people in our households. I am honestly surprised that I asked people (who I thought were friends) to wear a mask indoors while we have substantial community transmission because of risk to my family, and got “not my problem” as a response. No doubt some of the other people who criticized your first letter are also dealing with safety issues. I’m sure the commentariat’s responses are influenced by our personal situations and mental health, just as your first letter was.

    1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      +1. I have a friend who has more than once had people tell them “it’s not my problem if you die of COVID.” Just plainly. People explicitly don’t care if they kill someone.

      I will readily admit that my feelings have very little to do with wanting to WFH forever (I don’t! I want a hybrid schedule! I miss seeing people and my desk sucks!) and a *lot* to do with my not wanting to harm others by be unwittingly becoming a viral vector, followed closely by not wanting to get sick again.

  24. The OTHER other*

    Thank you for the update, a lot of the comments would have made for tough reading. I’m glad you dug into your feelings and figured out what the real issues were. Good luck to you!

  25. Lacey*

    Good for you for being so proactive about figuring out where your feelings about the office were coming from. Not everyone is aware enough to do that.

  26. Ginger Baker*

    I keep trying to make that “some people prefer working from the office” point when we discuss having my department come back to the office in a hybrid arrangement. I much prefer working from home…but there are definitely others who don’t! And I would love to see us shift to “let’s have the folks who love being onsite come in most days [leaving others like me to come in way LESS often]” instead of trying to have it “equal” by asking each person to come in the same number of days. Haven’t seen that gain traction yet :/ but I keep hoping…

    1. LW*

      That’s basically what my company does! Three days is what I consider optimal because I prefer to be in the office more than at home, but there are some weeks where for whatever reason I can’t make it three days or at all, and that’s perfectly fine. We also have people who never come to the office and people who come in 5 days a week. It really is up to you, and I have found that everyone has been really happy to have the flexibility. Our CEO actually treats us like responsible adults which is very much appreciated.

  27. Elizabeth*

    Great job working through this on your own and being willing to ask for help and being willing to change. You said you are early in your career, but with attitudes like this you should go far!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. I think your willingness to take criticism and make sure that you have dug down to get all the problems and their scope to make sure you are fixing the real problem not just triaging symptoms shows that you are a good manager. Far too many managers just stop at surfaces problems, good on you for fixing the bigger problems too.

  28. Blue Eagle*

    Definitely uplifting to read your update and your update to the update. Great to hear that your discussions with your boss were fruitful and provided some clarity to you. Wishing you the best in your career!

  29. On site anon*

    Thanks for the update! I hear you on feeling alone in your perspective, especially on this blog, but you also made me realize that among my actual colleagues, most of us are interested at least in some kind of hybrid approach.

  30. generic_username*

    This is a lovely update. I always appreciate when Letter Writers can read the response and comments and respond positively despite criticism.

  31. Sara without an H*

    I’d like to recommend that we all agree to cut ourselves and others some thick, generous slices of slack right now. As the OP pointed out, a lot of things are being renegotiated in new conditions and nobody really knows how it will all work out in the end. So let’s all take deep breaths and not beat ourselves, or anybody else, up.

  32. Sami*

    I think it would be beneficial to be like you.
    You took some hard hits in the comments.
    You were introspective with your mental health and sought help.
    You realized what your frustrations really stemmed from and were able to have a candid conversation with your boss.
    Well done and keep up your hard work!

  33. Sindy*

    I’m glad the OP wasn’t scared off by the uncharitable comments in the last letter. I saw a lot of my former co-workers quit and apply to other jobs that are doing in-office work because they are completely unable to comply with WFH requirements. Bad internet, not able to access the proper technology (one woman I know uses the public library for her wifi needs because she can’t get internet service to her home), their children keep bothering them during work hours (your kids busting in on a zoom meeting is only funny once, when it keeps happening because you can’t lock the door then its a problem), loud neighbors audible through the walls of your apartment, etc. It all piles up and it makes WFH completely unreachable for many people. There are many workers in the US who do not want in-office placement – they NEED in-office placement. I was really surprised and troubled at the first post at how many people completely ignored this dynamic, I guess because it might have validated the OP too much to acknowledge it?

    OP is brave for being able to take a step back and talk to their therapist about things and that they identified the issues with their business that was bothering them. This is a really useful skill to have and I’m proud of OP for being able to use that self awareness for their benefit. Keeping talking to your colleagues and to your mentor, while this is a very new experience it is also one that we can learn from and improve our workplaces. There are many good lessons to learn from this pandemic, especially about who needs WFH and who needs in-office placement.

    1. no name today*

      Right now the onsite/WFH dilemma is due to….a pandemic. So it sucks that some people have crappy WFH setups, but until the pandemic part subsides (including long covid & breakthrough cases) people may still have to deal with WFH as a safety measure, not a preference.

    2. Love WFH*

      I think a big part of the pro-WFH push is because those of us who thrive in a WFH setup have been forced to drag pointlessly into an office, five days a week, for years and years, because it was what was expected.

      Anyone who starts demanding that people who’d prefer to WFH drag back into that office pointlessly just because they want company or think in-office work is best or have a personal preference for in-office work or whatever else should expect very passionate push back. If you want to work in the office, fine. But don’t ruin it for the rest of us who don’t want or need to be there, just because you’re lonely or whatever.

  34. Brett*

    The part about office events pre-pandemic made me realize something…
    our united way fundraiser this year bombed, badly. We used to always go way past goal. This year, we were at 40% in the last week.
    It has a lot to do with everyone being remote. In the past we had 20+ events ranging from a soccer tournament to “fashion” shows to clay shooting. Most of those didn’t happen, and those that did had minimal participation. All the fun and excitement of the UW campaign are simply gone when everyone is remote. And this has shown up in other areas, the biggest being the various cultural celebrations we have. We still have them, but they are virtual and are pretty much only attended now by people who are already part of those cultures.
    In the past, pretty much all work on site would stop during the cultural events; the food alone was enough to make everyone want to take a break. Now, it is just something somewhere off in a virtual corner that most people just skip past.
    (And I won’t even get into how depressing the company virtual 5k and fun run was this year. Something that used to draw hundreds of people in the past to run and cheer on runners ended up being a channel where a scattering of a dozen people put up selfies over three weeks and then waited for their t-shirts in the mail.)

    1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      I would also think that people don’t have as much money or bandwidth to donate this year? Or maybe have donated elsewhere. It is disappointing, though.

      1. Brett*

        At least for inside our company, money is probably not the issue; everyone should be in relatively the same or better financial shape as they were two years ago. Bandwidth probably is an issue, but in a weird way that teams and managers who used to make time for the events when they were in person are not making time for those events when they are virtual, especially combined with the drag of having lots of back to back virtual meetings that make it hard to adjust schedules for events.

        1. Colette*

          It’s really, really hard to have virtual events that are as engaging as in-person events, which is probably a big part of the problem.

          We have a charity campaign at my office, and when we’re all in the building, they do weekly raffles for 3 or 4 months. If I happen to walk by and I have money with me (which is rare), I’ll buy a ticket. Last year, they went online and I considered buying tickets to support them – but they asked for information I didn’t think they needed (e.g. birthdate), so I didn’t.

        2. Candi*

          Personally, I don’t miss having people come to my desk for company sanctioned soliciting, and if I were having financial problems, the last people I would tell would be the people at work.

        3. Mouse*

          Remember that you don’t know family situations—your employees might be the same or better financially, but their spouse may have lost a job, or they’re now supporting a parent that can’t work, or any number of other extended economic effects of this pandemic!

      2. Nodramalama*

        I feel for you OP. This is not easy and good for you for recognising how your anxiety was affecting your response.

        I agree with you that a lot of people treat remote working as the norm they expect to continue long term and consider that the pandemic has demonstrated remote working can work seamlessly. I am the same as you that I do not flourish wfh full time and now that my work is allowing people back in the office I jumped at the chance to at least come in part time.

        I think youd be surprised by how many people share your view that face to face interactions with your colleagues has a lot of value and shouldn’t be done away long term with because more workplaces are more used to working remotely.

    2. Prefer my pets*

      Or, you know, people have been gaining increased awareness the last several years about just how scammy that whole thing is and now that they are out of the office it is harder for managers to abusively push for that magic 100% participation status.

      1. Candi*

        Our managers used to come around to our desks to collect forms that we had to fill out that said whether or not we were donating. I *hated* it. It was one step away from the charity shaming they do at the grocery when they ask you to donate a dollar to some org you’ve never heard of in front of everyone else in line. But this was at work so you couldn’t tell them to leave you alone. :-P

      2. Brett*

        I don’t think I made it clear that the cultural events have no connection whatsoever to the UW events. It is just that the UW campaign being so unsuccessful made it clear how flat virtual events were falling. The cultural events have done even _worse_ than the UW events.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      I mean, I would do office events, mainly because they provide a distraction from work, but virtual? Nah. There is too much virtual everything already, I have no desire to add “fun” to it.
      Virtual fun sucks. It just dies. In addition, it’s nice not to be asked (pressured really) to donate, participate, cheer, run, whatever else. Ignoring this stuff is much easier when no one can dive bomb to your desk with “have you seen?”

    4. allathian*

      Office-sponsored charity events need to die a death now. Luckily I work for the government, so those are not a thing for us.

      I’m fat and clumsy, and while I don’t consider myself disabled, nor have I been stamped with a disability diagnosis, I have zero interest in making myself look foolish by engaging in physical activities with my coworkers, or by wearing fancy dress. Nope, nope, nope!

      I go to the office to work, and maybe to chat with coworkers at lunch or during our coffee breaks. I might attend the occasional after work event, but I always decide on whether or not to attend based on the event itself.

  35. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    Kudos to you on the medication front! I decreased my dose of antidepressants to see if I could, and ended up having a meltdown at a stranger in the dollar store. So that was a big NOPE! I’m glad your workplace is supportive, too. Mine is, too, and it’s so, so helpful.

    Well done on all your insights, and for speaking to management about your concerns. Go you! :)

  36. Siege*

    I think you reached the most important conclusion: people should have the right to state their preference on work location, those preferences should be accommodated as much as possible, and the company should work to make them equally successful. It sounds like you really tackled your problem head-on to solve it, and that speaks well yo your leadership.

  37. Katt*

    This is a great update!

    It’s worth noting that around the beginning of the pandemic I, too, hated working from home. I HATED it, with a capital H, with the passion of a thousand fiery burning suns. I could not wait to return to the office, and every day I got more and more miserable.

    Turns out, a job change and an apartment change and a friend change were necessary ingredients to solving (many of) my problems. I got a new job doing something I’m far more interested in, I moved away from a toxic roommate into my own one bedroom apartment (I had wanted an office, but my desk/couch will do for the time being), and subsequently stopped speaking to said individual, which mysteriously improved my mental wellbeing tenfold.

    Turns out, the job (which was pretty difficult and I struggled with aspects of it, due in part to working from home since I didn’t have the support of colleagues) and the roommate were dragging me down massively. When you spend 8 hours a day doing something you don’t like and the remaining hours hanging out with someone who makes you feel miserable, and there’s no escape, well… Obviously I wanted to get back to the office! I would have been able to discuss difficult clients in real time with my colleagues and be able to get some catharsis through venting, and I wouldn’t have spent all day around my roommate, who, by the way, NEVER left the apartment. It’s actually a bit amazing how long you can last in an unsuitable job when the people around you are great. I think that was part of the situation; once the people were no longer really around, the wheels started coming off. I was still performing quite well; it just wasn’t my thing.

    The new job is perfect; the apartment situation could use an improvement, due to various factors, and I will probably move again when this lease is up or shortly thereafter, but to be quite honest these problems pale in comparison to what I was experiencing before.

    I no longer want to return to the office 5 days a week. One or two days, maybe, but all but one of my colleagues are spread out across I think 7 different cities around the country, so we communicate mainly through MS Teams anyway. I would return to see my one colleague (who is already in the office 2x a week), and get out of the house a few days a week, but I think that’s it. It looks like my job will probably be staying remote anyway, and returning to the office will just be optional for me.

  38. Nope*

    Thanks for coming back to comment. This all really resonates with me and it’s so hard to see when your own anxiety clouds your judgment. I’m really happy for you that you were able to figure that part of it out. Good luck

  39. Slinky*

    OP, I also have anxiety and depression. It is truly fascinating how those two conditions sneak up on you and make you feel so much worse about everything in life, without you even realizing that the it’s the anxiety and depression putting a lens on everything. I’m glad you’re doing much better and hope for continued healing for you!

  40. Falling Diphthong*

    I really appreciate the insight that the thing OP was fixating on as the “If we only fixed X, then it would all work” wasn’t actually the problem.

    Very human thing, that. In other letters, it often comes up as a lengthy description of a molehill ending with a glancing reference to the mountain atop which this molehill sits.

    1. J.B.*

      I think it’s human and also very prominent with anxiety. That need (I have) to control anything can cause you to treat people badly if you don’t put the brakes on.

  41. Jaybeetee*

    Thank you for following up OP. I know it’s not easy when the comments are critical.

    I do have some sympathy, in that I’m one of those living alone in a not-large apartment and my kitchen table has been co-opted for work stuff for over a year now (my work requires a large monitor and can’t be practically done with a laptop alone). Moreover, I have ADHD and keeping myself focused and productive at home is a challenge. I now go into the office periodically and find I’m far more productive when I do. I think a hybrid system is an ideal set-up for me.

    So, I get it. Indefinite, full-time WFH certainly isn’t for everyone, and I also miss “office culture” (even when I do go in, there are generally only a couple of other people around). But I feel like for a lot of employers, those days are past, and WFH, at least some of the time, will be the norm going forward.

    Best of luck with your mental health and tweaking your meds. The last couple years have really taken us on a ride.

  42. Hills to Die On*

    I am glad you are doing well! It wasn’t terribly harsh – just a frustrated person. And that is HARD to see when you medication isn’t right (I have been there)!

    1. Hills to Die On*

      It’s also been my experience that this community is quick to call out what they don’t agree with and also very quick to offer support. I am glad you are getting so many warm responses. :)

  43. LW*

    Hi all, LW here! I have really enjoyed reading all of your comments. I think that there are some very important discussions happening here and I am glad that both of my letters have sparked that. One thing I do want to address is that some of you pointed out that as we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, I can not put my own risk tolerances on others by forcing them to return (which, as a mid-level manager, I don’t have the power to do anyway…even with my own direct reports, as my manager would rightfully push back on me) as this would be both unfair and dangerous. I want you all to know that I take the pandemic seriously and 100% agree. I have immunocompromised individuals in my family AND one of my direct reports also has health issues, and I would never want to put them or anyone in my life at risk. The reason I returned to the office when I did (prior to vaccines being out and most people returning) was twofold: 1) I prefer the office and wanted to go back to regain some sense of normalcy in a dark time and 2) I wanted to show others that it would be safe to return when they were ready and as someone with no underlying conditions or risk of exposing a high-risk individual (I don’t have young children and don’t live with my immunocompromised family members) I felt that I was in a situation where I could handle the risk. As some of you also pointed out, I probably was fine because I was both lucky and because very few people were traveling or even in the office in the early days, so it was actually safer for me to be there than it probably is now. The reason I brought that up in my first letter was I guess because I was frustrated that I had taken this big risk back when things weren’t as safe and now that things are arguably much better, I couldn’t understand why people weren’t comfortable taking the risk now. But as you all pointed out…there are so many reasons why people should still feel nervous, and they have every right to be! I also tend to think very far into the future, so a lot of the questions I have been asking are really more about what the future of the office looks like more permanently, once we are past COVID, rather than now while we are definitely very much still dealing with it. I think there is just a lot that we still don’t know…and that is hard for me to accept sometimes. But I also think we have this great opportunity to make a workplace that is so much better than it was before. My office isn’t what it used to be, and it never will be that again. But as more people have come back (on their own, because they are choosing to!) and my organization is making the office an exciting and happy place to be again, I can definitely say that we are on our way to creating something even greater.

    I hope that helps a little. There are so many other great comments here and I wish I could get to everything and jump in on these discussions. But if you have any questions for me, I will do my best to reply on this thread!

    1. Love WFH*

      I’m sorry to hear that you were not doing well, LW, but am glad to hear that you are doing better now.

      As someone who has struggled with their mental health, I can certainly relate and empathise with you. I hope you continue to do well.

      However, the jobs and managers I had – wherein I was forced into an office to do work I could much more efficiently, effectively, and comfortably from home, which involved three stressful hours of commuting every day (thanks to ill-advised office relocations), and there was a toxic boss and/or office environment – certainly made my mental health worse.

      None of these jobs started off bad, of course, but having a manager who is tone-deaf and overly rigid in their perspective at best always added to a perfect storm.

      That said, my current job is really great and my not wanting to come back to the office has nothing to do with my boss or colleagues, all of whom are wonderful.

      It has everything to do with risk, health and safety, followed by the freedom from the length and stress of the commute, and the numerous distractions of the loud open office have seen me become more productive and happier, as well as healthier, as I now have time to cook, exercise, sleep properly, and nuture my relationships with my family and friends.

      I am sick to death of bending myself out of shape just for the sake of the old status quo, which left me burned out, sick, and often having to put up with bullying and harassment in past jobs just to keep myself fed and housed.

      Also, “office culture” is able to be created and nurtured via Slack, email, Teams/Zoom and the phone. It does not require me to be there in person doing extra emotional labour for free.

  44. Michelle Smith*

    Sorry LW, I have to disagree with you again! We actually should be more like you: willing to self-reflect and change course upon realizing you made a mistake, proactively taking care of your mental health, expressing vulnerability, advocating for yourself in the workplace. There is a LOT in these edits to emulate. I wish you nothing but the best going forward!

    1. LW*

      Thank you! I hope others can learn from this, as I did. Super grateful to Alison for posting both my original letter and the updates!

  45. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    This is a joy to read: a thoughtful poster who thinks carefully about the comments made about her letter and acknowledges where their outlook was skewed and why and takes steps to address it. Not afraid to admit she was wrong, nor to address the underlying issues. Well done OP!

  46. Anonymity*

    Glad you’re doing better, LW. And sorry to hear that you weren’t doing well. I know how that feels and it is awful.

    Your original letter did make me very angry, so reading this update has been fantastic.

    I’ve had some managers who are utterly reprehensible in every way, so it’s good to know that some managers can honestly just have bad days or bad ideas, but that they can overcome them. Thank you for also reassuring me that those bad ideas from managers are not necessarily meant to be harmful; it’s just a different perspective. We’re all human, after all.

    I tend to expect the worst after having so many bad managers. Thank you for sharing that a positive epiphany is possible, no matter how set on a bad/harmful idea a manager may be for whatever reason.

    I wish you all the very best.

  47. Linda Evangelista*

    I 100% understand the feeling of having anxiety that makes you assume the worst in people! It absolutely sucks. I’m glad you’ve got a good psychiatrist who can help you through this. <3

  48. MCMonkeyBean*

    Great update! I’m very impressed with your ability to try to examine your own feelings somewhat objectively, that can be really tough to do. And it sounds like by figuring out what your feelings were really about you were able to address things in a much more productive way!

    And I just want to add for OP, that even as someone who prefers WFH and is hoping to do so indefinitely–feelings around this are definitely super complicated for a lot of us! I don’t really ever want to go back to working in my office, but there are still things that I miss about it. I agree that the social functions are obviously just not at all comparable when you look at remote meetings versus actually gathering for a team lunch at a baseball game down the street or whatever. And honestly as someone who loves clothes I kind of miss dressing up for the office each day (I tried doing that anyway at home, but my love of sleep and of my cat lead to me dropping that habit pretty quickly). There are enough things I love about working from home that I am trying to make this my permanent situation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I miss about the office too. It’s all pretty complicated but I do honestly think that this pandemic has changed a lot of things forever and my office at least is unlikely to return to how it was before. So I’m just trying to figure out my new best-case scenario in the world as it is today.

  49. BB*

    I want to thank you for sharing this update and update to the update, but I just wanted to say I very much agree with your original statements. I too am so depressed and sad working from home that I have become very, very frustrated that my colleagues do not want to go back to the office. It looks like we probably close our physical office, and I will probably look for another job when we do because WFH full-time is not the life for me. I hope to one day reach the epiphanies that you have reached, but I am not there yet. I just wanted to say I think it is okay to feel the way you feel. :) FWIW, I too could have written your letter or this letter: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/i-hate-working-from-home.html. I hope you know your letter really helped me sort through my own thoughts. Thank You!

  50. Aspergirl*

    OP – I’m glad you were able to have time for reflection. I really here you on the being in the dark thing. I don’t normally feel that way in my WFH situation but, historically, when I’ve been in work situations without a lot of communication and I understand feeling anxious/stressed/desperate to get things into a better place.

  51. HamBurglar*

    I too was in a situation where I kept blaming my colleagues for circumstances completely beyond their control.
    I always thought “Why can’t everyone work as hard as I can?” Or “if everyone else did this thing that way, things would work more efficiently!”
    The problem was that I had worked in so many dysfunctional organisations with incompetent and uncommunicative managers, that it had completely warped my sense of what was ‘normal’. I misplaced my frustration at people who didn’t deserve it.

    I can only imagine how OP would have felt feeling unsupported by management.

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