our remote staff want the same perks we give in-office staff

A reader writes:

I work for a company that has both in-office employees and work-from-home employees. When we plan events in the office such as chair massages and catered lunches, we offer work-from-home employees the opportunity to work in the office and participate in whatever event we are having, though they rarely come in for them.

More often then not, I get emails from work-from-home staff complaining that we do lots of events for the office staff but we don’t have events that work-from-home staff can do remotely.

I feel that is part of working remotely. I personally can’t come into the office in a tank and sweatpants, yet they can answer calls in whatever they want to wear at home. That is part of working in the office. They are given the opportunity to come in and work in the office if they want to participate.

When asked, they suggest the company just offer them gift cards to restaurants when we cater lunch and gift cards to massage locations. Do I need to cater to them if they don’t come into the office?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  •  New hire wants to print everything and not use screens
  • Should we tell a client their employee has applied for a job with us?
  • Handling email build-up during maternity leave

{ 278 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann O'Nemity*

    We found that offering a $50 gift card once a year to remote employees stopped most of the complaints about inequity in free food and other perks. Also, stop sending remote staff all-office alerts about free food in the break room.

    1. J*

      Amen to your final sentence. I used to manage a satellite location located in the same metro as another office. They had us on the same mailing list, which was nice in advance of planned events but got very old to see they’d budget for office pizza parties and never warn me so I could sync ours up. I’d get a lot of annoyed staffers at 11:50 am asking where their pizza was.

      Now that I’m virtual for a different employer, I regularly get emails about end of day office parties in New York. Thankfully the Texas team learned to use mailing lists by location. I don’t feel resentful because being remote has its own perks but I don’t need to have them rubbed in either. My boss also has the flexibility to declare it a remote work party and send us a Doordash card once in a while so we can all have a treat since part of the goal of office parties is bonding over not-work projects.

    2. Lea*

      I read about a boss who sent a door dash lunch to all of their staff for Christmas or employee appreciation or something and thought it was a lovely gesture that would go a long way.

      I think the letter writer seems kind of resentful of people for being home, which is probably carrying over. I wonder if there are practical things that make it difficult for them to come in for a lunch (and yes on the break room stuff)

      1. Brief anon*

        After COVID hit, my spouse’s employer, which has both remote and on-site employees, started offering “morale” treats like occasional Zoom art classes or chocolate tastings, where everybody could join in from home. It seemed to work really well, because there was a wide range of different offerings for different interests, it was totally voluntary, the company paid to send any related supplies (like a watercolor kit) to your home, and different events were geared toward including kids or partners. It was fun and inclusive and accessible to both remote and on-site people. The company also gives meal-delivery allowances to remote employees if they’re remotely attending, for example, a big meeting where the in-person attendees get lunch. There doesn’t seems to be much tension between the in-person and remote people.

        This is a company that I think (as an outside but interested observer) does a good job of treating employees well in general, so the treats are built into a functional system rather than serving as a bandaid to “make up” for poor benefits or other shortcomings.

          1. Brief anon*

            Truly, they are pretty great. I’ve learned a lot about good workplaces from observing how they do things.

      2. Cringing 24/7*

        I didn’t read it as resentful so much as it reflecting the confused and maybe slightly irked thought of, “You’re choosing remote work and gaining the out-of-office perks that come with it, but then complaining you don’t get the in-office perks as well?”

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          But, even that to say, the main issue seems to be that it’s possible that email blasts like “lunch is on us today” or “tacos in the break room” are being sent out regardless of whether employees are in-office or remote, and that is just asking for dissatisfaction.

    3. Kes*

      Yeah I think part of the problem is they’re trying to balance visible and explicit perks for in-office with their perceived implicit perks of working from home. But the messages about massages, lunches etc are much more noticeable, and are consistently reminding the remote employees of what they aren’t getting. Agreed that having at least some events that remote employees can participate in would go a long way to ensuring they also feel appreciated.

      1. Vio*

        indeed. the in-office staff would soon get annoyed if they received messages like “just a reminder that those of you working from home don’t need to bother dressing up since we’re doing all calls audio only today” or “well done to all of our work-from-home staff for their part in keeping their carbon footprint small by not driving to work. we’re going to give all of you free ice cream as a reward” all of the time and weren’t getting any perks of their own

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      I think the office-specific mailing list is one of those things that is SO IMPORTANT but often forgotten. Not just to keep from spamming remote workers with emails that are useless to them (and may breed envy, even if it isn’t really warranted) but also other locations if you have more than one office.

      1. BellaDiva*

        I’d gladly ignore all the “free food” emails if I could get off the “can someone check the printer” and “contractors coming on Monday” emails.

    5. MsClaw*

      I think offering a gift card or door-dashing a meal to remote employees, like, quarterly or something is a small way to show appreciation for the remote staff.

      I do agree that if you have people fussing every time someone brings in donuts and they don’t get one, that’s silly. But you might have less of that if you include the remote staff even 2% of the time.

      We have one team member who works at a different facility, and if our boss was ordering pizzas for a a meeting he would always offer to cover her lunch as well. Due to the timezone difference she didn’t always take him up on it, but it was obvious that the offer was appreciated.

      1. A*

        Agreed. My employer allows remote workers the ability to comp a meal once a month to address this (if I recall correctly it’s around a $35 max). Not necessary, but goes a long way for morale. I think quarterly would have the same impact if the max was bumped up to $50.

        1. Mongrel*

          That’s a nice way of handling it.
          Our place had a company-wide town-hall meeting recently and offered a BBQ for those at head office only, everyone else got sent a treats tin.
          Seems nice but they it was contentious.
          The other office got the tin as well, despite there being enough people to make outside catering an option while the treats tin was not well thought out as it conflicted with a lot of dietary restrictions; lot’s of sugary\high fat items, almost no vegan options, items with nuts (including one that a colleagues child is frighteningly allergic to) the only one that got off lightly was the gluten free people.
          So yeah, just a generic voucher or stipend for a meal would be much preferred

      2. Juliet*

        We literally had someone voluntarily working from home CRY over not getting a cupcake. I wish I was kidding. I don’t think she was crying over the cupcake as much as just not feeling like she was a part of the office “fun” but still. But I guess you can’t have your (cup)cake and eat it too.

        But seriously, it’s an issue we have too and it’s frustrating to those of us who get up every morning, get dressed (in real clothes, makeup, hair, etc) make the commute, have to deal with all of the office politics and drama that our work from home colleagues can mostly avoid, and have people crying over not getting cupcakes.

        1. Andy*

          More often then not, in office people create group that excludes, push away the people working from home. Saying information necessary for work only yo people in office, coordinating only with people in office etc.

          That is primary reason why in office is better for your career – office people creating cliques.

    6. LW4*

      Completely agree! I worked and managed a remote team for years before Covid. Daily, I would receive emails about head office having a broken printer, certain toilets being closed and what the special in the canteen was. Drove me crazy!

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Oh yes. When I was working in a satellite office, head office would include us in stuff like that, but then forget to include us for the important stuff requiring feedback. They would only realise when checking to see if everyone had replied, then forward the email without even bothering to hide the fact they had forgotten us.
      Head office had baskets of fruit for everybody, and lunch for everyone at a restaurant once a month, and we got strictly nothing. There was a firm at our premises belonging to the same group, and their boss would get them baskets of fruit and take them out for lunch, and very pointedly exclude us, it was really nasty.

      1. UDR*

        I used to work for a government agency at a satellite office and I assumed that no one had ever bothered to make an email distribution list for the main campus because we would get all of their on elevator maintenance notifications and free on campus trainings with lunch provided and free coffee day emails and most annoying, the annual free employee barbecue where staff would be all replying to the announcements with jokes about previous years barbecue and the games and who was going to win what prize/how much they were going to eat. I tried not to be too disgruntled about it all, even though my department was too short-staffed and too far away from the main campus to have anyone attend.

        Until one day my husband messaged me at work to ask if I was going to be coming home early. I asked why and he said our agency was in the news. They had received a threat credible enough that they sent all of the main campus employees home, and notified them with their campus staff only email list, and didn’t bother even giving notice to their satellite offices.

  2. Eggs and omelets*

    As a work-from-home person I’m amazed that people would rock the boat over ancillary stuff like this.

    I’m living the dream and getting paid to hang out at home all day; I’m not going to give my employer occasion to reconsider that over something as trivial as a Panera gift card or whatever.

    LW does not need to cater to these people, it is very reasonable that different working arrangements come with different perks. Traveling employees often get some stuff that people who stay at the office do not; its just what makes sense for the job.

    1. Mid*

      But constantly being reminded that you aren’t appreciated isn’t great for morale. I don’t think anyone expects identical treatment for in-office vs remote workers, but never giving remote people any sort of thank you/appreciation because they “can wear sweatpants” is going to end up with people resenting management. It’s showing that management thinks that remote workers aren’t worth showing gratitude for. They aren’t even trying to have some events that remote people can attend remotely. Inviting people to show up to the office, especially since COVID is still a thing, is not truly including remote workers either.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That stuck out at me too. Well you get to wear sweatpants, what more do you want? is kinda condescending to the remote workers.

        The employer CHOSE to have two sets of workers for whatever reason. But presumably the remote workers are not “lesser” for some reason. Therefore they should not be treated as less.

        The complaint is similar to why are all the team building these hard physical things? Why can’t we go learn breadmaking one time? If the perks offered for employees are ones that ONLY in house people can partake in, you are basically exluding everyone not in house. From what the feedback is, its why can’t they SOMETIMES be things everyone can do? Rather than chair massages, have I don’t know zoom meditation (yes I know the issues with that just an EXAMPLE that went with relaxtion perks like chair massages), or let everyone remote or in house knock off at noon every other Friday in summer. Just with a little thought you could come up with ideas that are more inclusive.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          I’m not sure how many employers are “choosing” to have remote workers and how many of them are living with a reality of staffing in 2022. I do know that the literature is that a lot of companies would like more butts in chairs in offices – and in some cases are willing to incentivize that with perks.

          I think this is a case of you can’t make everyone happy. The costs for inclusion of remote workers is going to be a lot higher (and as of yet, most companies haven’t downsized their facilities – they are still paying as if they had an on site staff). As an office worker, you’d bet I’d rather get a gift certificate for Doordash than a couple slices of pizza and a can of soda, but that isn’t the offer being made. I’d rather get my massage for 40 minutes in a salon than get a 15 minute chair massage fully dressed and be back at my desk in 20. Those aren’t reasonable asks though for someone on site – why should they be for someone remote? But I’m a remote worker – that means that I get to sit here in shorts, that I don’t need to drive to work when there is a snowstorm, that the increase in gas prices has barely been felt because I only drive to run errands and do the occasional social thing.

        2. DCDM*

          Sounds to me like it’s intentional. Make the remote employees want to leave without the bad press of saying no remote work

        3. lilsheba*

          I agree. Yes I have every advantage working from home, and way more freedom than I could have dreamed for, and I would never give it up for catered lunches in the office. But it would be nice to be given a free meal once in a while. My boss does excellent and does give us amazon gift cards sometimes, but the lunches should come from the company.

      2. Eggs and omelets*

        My employer shows me exactly how much they appreciate me (down to the penny!) every two weeks when my paycheck hits my bank account.

        I may end up resenting my management for a lot of reasons, but it won’t be because somebody who has to sit at the office all day gets the occasion free bagel that I miss out on.

        1. Come on,*

          They pay you for your work because it’s the law. Morale is something different. It doesn’t hurt to show extra appreciation to an employee besides pay.

        2. ApollosTorso*

          A good reminder that people are different. What matters most to some staff won’t be the same perks that others want and we all have different ways thst we feel appreciated

          1. John*

            Yeah, I guarantee a $50 gift card/lunch treat would make your staff feel more appreciated than a 5c/hour raise, even though that raise would work out to more money over the course of the year.

            1. NeedRain47*

              Nnnnnnnno. People can do the math and “feeling appreciated” is not a real priority when you’re trying to eat and pay rent. I’ll eat the free food but I’m still mad when I get a tiny raise.

            2. Rain's Small Hands*

              NOPE. I really do not want my employer giving me gift cards and lunches in lieu of raises. And I’m not at the level where I’m trying to pay rent.

            3. Lenora Rose*

              A 5 CENT raise is about $93 over the course of a year. Who insults their workforce by offering them that as a raise?

              A perk is not comparable to a raise, but what you listed isn’t a raise by any real definition.

        3. Foofoo*

          My CEO says that our bonuses are that we get a paycheck. If it’s not obvious, we rarely get perks or treats or anything else like that. Cause WE GET A PAYCHECK EVERY TWO WEEKS.

          Then he wonders why people are bailing from the company in droves.

          Yes, a paycheck is one way to show appreciation. Another is to treat your employees like people instead of automas that you put a paycheck into and get work out of.

          1. NeedRain47*

            That’s literally not what appreciation means. A paycheck is a financial transaction where you supply labor in exchange for money. Cripes. Who needs appreciation when you’re actively being insulted.

          2. CanadaPublicServant*

            Oh man. Anyone else flash to that scene in Mad Men where Peggy yells, “And you never say thank you!,” and Don huffs back “That’s what the money is for!”

        4. Daisy-dog*

          Unless you receive a bi-weekly bonus not outlined in your offer letter/employment contract, that’s not appreciation. You may not desire any appreciation, but that doesn’t mean others don’t.

        5. Mid*

          And they pay the in office workers the same, because a paycheck is required by law, and then also give them free perks on top of that.

      3. Green great dragon*

        Yes. LW, you’re giving the perks to the office people for a reason, right? To boost morale, encourage team spirit, show appreciation? So why isn’t that important for home workers? And would you really be surprised if doing nothing for them actively damages their morale, and makes them feel unappreciated?

        I don’t think it has to be the same thing, it doesn’t even have to be the same value (though it’d be good if it is) but yes, do something.

        Sure, you’re not obliged, and the wfh squad has made their choice, but you’re sending a message and I don’t think it’s one you want to send.

        1. Never Boring*

          Yes, WFH is a choice for some people, but not exactly one freely made if we are high-risk and there is no mask requirement in the office even when the CDC recommends it at current local transmission levels. I am not risking my health for a damn cupcake, even if I do actually enjoy being around other human beings on occasion, but my doctor doesn’t want me indoors with unmasked people, vaccinated or not.

          1. Squeakrad*

            This. I teach remotely because it’s not safe to teach in person right now. I would give anything to be able to be back in the classroom safely. And I really appreciate all the departments I interact with having zoom options for meetings, and offering those of us who are still remote occasional treats.

      4. baseballfan*

        I don’t see how this is “reminding” anyone that they’re not appreciated. On the contrary, this benefit is being offered to all employees to show appreciation. The remote people are choosing not to partake in it.

        This is like someone complaining that they’re not appreciated because the free lunch offered is pasta and they would have instead preferred a sandwich. If a free lunch is offered in the office and they decline because they simply don’t want to come to the office, that’s 100% on them.

        1. WheresMyPen*

          There could be people that can’t come into the office though, for example people who are shielding, who can’t afford public transport or who have other commitments at home.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I think though if you are regularly offering benefits that require people to come in to the office and none that don’t, then…it does seem like one group are being more appreciated than the other.

          As a very picky eater, I often have the offer of free lunches I can’t eat and no big deal, but…if there was a free lunch EVERY week and it was ALWAYS pasta, then I think the person who can’t eat pasta would have some justification in feeling left out. Or perhaps a more realistic example would be something like if there was a free lunch every week and it always included meat and some of the staff were vegetarians or all the staff were given a bottle of wine for Christmas, high sales, etc and some were teetotal (not saying your example was unrealistic, just that it would be a bit unrealistic for it to be the only thing ever offered).

          Some events being only available if you choose to come to the office…yeah, no big deal and yeah, your choice if you want to remain home and miss them.

          EVERY event only available if you choose to come in to the office…yeah, that feels a bit more like “come in or miss out on everything,” like it’s trying to pressurise people to come in to the office or to “reward” those who do so as to subtly imply they are better employees.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Vegetarian who experienced your example. Completely agree. It’s fine if you bring in turkey/ham sandwiches every once in a while. I don’t mind – I’ll join and enjoy the chips & pickle (and eat a real lunch on my own). But I once worked somewhere that required us to take a shorter lunch every Monday and in exchange they brought in sandwiches – only meat based sandwiches. I felt more ignored than if they’d just done nothing. (Thankfully someone else stepped in and started ordering more variety of food which everyone appreciated.)

            1. ceiswyn*

              Yeah. I once skipped breakfast because there was going to be a hot breakfast at the office; and that turned out to be entirely bacon or sausage in a bun.

              I did not feel appreciated by that gesture. I felt forgotten. Also grumpy. And HUNGRY.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah, I dunno why veg is not included routinely in shared meals. It’s not like there’s any section of the population that can’t eat veg. Veg is categorically the one food group that you can’t eat too much of (not counting potatoes as a veg here) and the one group that contains tons of stuff a lot of people need more of, and veggies can be really good when prepared well. Meat is just a lazy solution because people like it and for lots of people, you haven’t eaten if you haven’t eaten meat.
              I’m sick of getting to the selection of foods only to find that all the veggie options have been taken already, because the meat eaters do also want some veg, variety being the spice of life and all that.

          2. Third or Nothing!*

            Agreed on the food example. I had something similar happen when I was still working in the office: every month the company would cater lunch to celebrate all the birthdays and anniversaries, and it was supposed to be for everyone to enjoy. But they refused to include stuff on the order that didn’t include my allergens (dairy and eggs, by the way). I offered to do all the work of pointing out which options were safe, but nope. No one else got to choose their meal, so I didn’t either. So I didn’t get to eat. Even on my own month. It really made me feel like they didn’t value me at all.

        3. Books and Cooks*

          It is, but it wouldn’t kill the company to occasionally order sandwiches instead, either, or for managers to notice that, “Gee, we offer employees this great pasta every other week, but A, F, J, M, O, and S never eat it–I wonder why? Maybe I should ask them,” and thus discover that those employees have allergies or other reasons for not eating the pasta, and arrange something else for them on occasion.

          Not every employee is going to love every benefit or perk, but no one should be consistently left out of all of them, either, just because no one bothered to see if there’s a way to include them.

      5. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I think there’s a difference between appreciating employees and appreciating the behavior of coming in to the office, and that it’s OK to reward the latter as well as the former. Offices will always have little perks like that – free coffee, snacks, maybe the odd catered lunch. Remote workers won’t see little feedback things like that – but they get to not spend gas, or pay out for a higher COL area so that they are near the office, and deal with all the little household chores during the workday rather than having to come home and then do all the chores. There is a tangible, measurable, monetary reward to being remote.

        I understand that there are concerns over Covid and that many remote workers are not in a position where commuting to the office is an option, but having the office provide ice cream bars in the freezer and a $30/person lunch once a week is not something that should be getting people up in arms compared to not having to pay out for a full tank of gas a week and an extra 1-2 hours a day of commuting time/day.

        1. Migraine Month*

          I think the LW should be really clear about the purpose of the fringe perks. Is it a specific thank-you to people who have had to be in office throughout the pandemic? Is it part of a team-building or team-appreciation event? Is it a way to lure mostly-remote workers into the office every couple of months for company culture reasons?

          If the aim is team-building or team-appreciation, it’s important to be inclusive not only of remote workers, but also different job roles, abilities and interests.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Also, senior workers who come in to the office can share knowledge more easily with the junior workers, since it often happens by chance, just because someone will exclaim out loud “oh damn why do they always use that cheap paint for the teapots” and a manager just walking past will stop and say “did you tell them you have the budget for the other paint? not everyone realises how good it is, and they were told to use up the cheap paint by default”. Then the junior worker has learned something useful about the paint workshop and can adjust their orders accordingly. It’s the kind of thing that just doesn’t happen when everyone is remote. So letting others benefit from your experience should be rewarded too.

      6. Wendy Darling*

        The one time I got Big Mad about not getting the same perks as the in-office people it was because I worked for a giant company that had like 70% of its staff outside its “main” office due to acquisitions but still insisted like the main office was the only place that existed, e.g. they scheduled every single all-company meeting outside of working hours for most of the company so that the people at the main office could go straight from the meeting to catered lunch.

        The only remote-friendly events we ever had were set up by my manager, who was also remote. (We played a lot of Drawful.)

      7. Karia*

        You’re both correct, especially because a lot of remote employees… can’t wear sweatpants. There seems to be a perception that everyone went into comfort mode the second lockdown was introduced. Any of us who do video chats / meet clients carried on in business professional clothing and grooming, we just did it in an uncomfortable chair.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Seriously. I’m sitting here in a polo and black jeans, just like I would wear into an office. I don’t “work in sweatpants” like the LW assumes that all remote workers do.

      8. Andy*

        I interpret these as passive aggressive attempts to get people into office. Not much worth of respect, but it is what it is.

      9. Claire W*

        Exactly this! I mostly WFH for a bunch of health reasons including being ‘clinically vulnerable’ which means my Drs all recommend I not spend every day commuting on a train and sitting in a busy office (I still go in on important days a few times a month). My staying at home to stay healthy/alive (I was hospitalised when I got Covid) isn’t some super generous ‘gift’ that means I don’t need to feel like I’m noticed and that people appreciate me as part of the team or company… Luckily my company doesn’t have the same attitude the OP’s does!

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      I’m not too surprised. Most people get it but I have had coworkers who want to work most of the time and come into the office maybe once a month and be mad that they don’t have a reserved workspace and/or parking space when they come in occasionally.

      1. to varying degrees*

        This reminds me of the episode in The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon is peeved because the university gave his parking spot to Howard. Sheldon doesn’t drive, doesn’t own a car, and at least at the time, didn’t have a license. So the spot sat empty.

    3. Tirving*

      Exactly! I’ll take the savings on gas and commute time as a much better perk than the occassional free lunch.

    4. Alex*

      Yeah same here. My office has all kinds of things to try to entice people to come in and work in the office….but none are as enticing as my sweatpants and not having to find a parking space! I acknowledge that there are trade-offs between working from home and working in the office, and I trade catered lunches for the comforts of home and the hours back in my life that I used to spend commuting.

    5. CoffeeFail*

      I think remote workers get a benefit that the in-office do not…zero commute time, saving money on gas, not having to maintain a full, professional wardrobe. I don’t spend as much on make up or hair products. I save more money than I would get from the in office “perks.”

        1. yala*

          Day-laundry, not having to pack a lunch, my cat snuggled next to me (I put her bed by my desk when WFH started), thermostat control, and the blissful domestic silence of a place with no whispering, murmuring, overhead announcements, or people walking behind me.

          Man, it was nice. Wish we could at least still do the hybrid schedule.

          1. Greg*

            Dogs for me.

            And with three kids, the luxury of being able to throw a load in between meetings was amazing. And then being able to fold during lunch rather than at 8PM when my wife and I are both exhausted would be worth more than any number of chair massages or cold cut lunch sandwich anyone could rustle up.

            (Yes, I know these are my own personal feelings and not everyone feels this way.)

    6. AnotherOne*

      yeah, my office basically bribes us to come in once a week with lunch. technically we’re required to be in the office that day but they know everyone would rather not commute so they are making it as hassle lite as possible.

      Cuz they can’t do anything about people’s traffic and parking problems.

      1. Princess Xena*

        I have a similar setup and honestly don’t mind it (except that there are very few days that we’re required to be in the office and certainly not as often as once a week). If I stay home, then I get to WFH, do my laundry, and pet my cats. If I go into the office I get a little more collab time and free sandwiches.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I am the same and also living the dream BUT I think that is because my boss makes me feel like I am part of the team even though we are 2 time zones apart. Folks in the office may get pizza, My boss asked me what I wanted in lieu of whatever upcoming thing was happening, an extra hour off, a door dash, or a regular cash gift card. I told her no worries since I had saved the gas $ on the commute and got to work in shorts. Bosses should check in on if their remote employees feel included and sufficiently recognized. If they aren’t feeling that way, then ask what you can do to change that.

      1. Green Tea for Me*

        As an in office worker I would be TICKED if I found out this was happening, because I’m assuming they aren’t getting the same options. I’d much rather have an extra hour off than a free pizza lunch.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          The whole in-office team came up with the idea of giving the remote workers something in lieu of pizza and came up with this list at the behest of the boss. Our work is so flexible that an extra hour is about as exciting as a slice of pizza.

        2. Books and Cooks*

          Yes, me too! Especially as an in-office employee–it’s not just about being able to knock off an hour early, it’s about being able to GO HOME an hour early (or run errands, or whatever). To find out that a WFH employee got an extra hour of free time, or a cash gift card(!!) while I was stuck at the office with the same pizza they order every time, which I may or may not particularly like or want to eat [I personally do OMAD/intermittent fasting, so “free lunch” does nothing for me at all], or a massage that I am totally uninterested in having, would really annoy me.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          But the free pizza, consumed in the meeting room with your colleagues, is good for promoting team spirit, if not exactly a team-building exercise.
          Here in France, where people live to eat rather than eat to live, it’s definitely something that helps people get along with each other in the office, except for the most curmudgeonly of course.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s the flip side of your office is full of bees, where you become convinced that all requests for time off must be spelled out in marshmallow peeps and that’s normal. Take any level of things going great for you, and if you start to feel that’s the norm it’s easy to fixate on some tiny issue as a great deprivation.

      I recall a past letter from someone who had a six-figure income, five-figure bonus, great accommodating boss–and her same-level coworker was charging her kids’ stuff to the company.

      No doubt our ability to redefine the norm was useful evolutionarily, but it leads to some odd definitions of “normal” in the midst of what look like obvious and massive counterexamples–Here in the Omaha branch Accounts Receivable we’ve just always done the time-off requests in peeps, and we will go to the mat against any corporate “new policy” to fill it out online.

    9. Sss*

      In-office people have perks too. Like not having to dedicate part of their personal homes to office space, being able to get more face-time with coworkers, and whatever else made lots of people in the pandemic excited to get back to the office.

      Not all of the things mentioned in the letter were just features of the work location, which BOTH in-office and remote have good and bad qualities, but were intended to be morale-boosting events. It’s not insane that remote workers would feel left out and unvalued that they were never shown appreciation in a way that would actually work for them. I feel it’s quite similar to having a bunch of work events that are active sports while having none for employees that don’t like or can’t do exercise like that.

      1. Greg*

        I think where I get caught up is that those same perks were offered to the WFH crew. If it was OP saying, “Nah, you can’t come in for this because you’re mostly remote,” I would get it. But it was being offered! The WFH people are just saying, “Nah! I want to get the perk AND stay home.” The WFH team is making the choice not to participate so it is tough for me to think they’re entitled to some benefit.

        Would it be nice? Sure. Would it provide value? To the WFH team, probably. But then how would the in-office team feel? What is fair for one person isn’t always the same for another.

        1. ABCYaBye*

          I was caught on the same thing… not everything has to be “fair” and the WFH crew is indeed being invited to participate.

          Might it make sense to ask the WFH crew what might work if “the office” wanted to get them lunch every now and again, but I don’t see that there’s any reason that someone has to arrange lunch deliveries of the exact same pizza at the exact same time as the in-office crew having pizza.

        2. Daisy-dog*

          I’d need more information on why the WFH team doesn’t come in to determine if they are acting entitled. I do agree that what they are asking for is too much to match – a 10-minute chair massage in the conference room is not equal to Massage Envy gift card. Do they get enough advance notice to adjust their schedule? Do these events happen on different days or always on the same day/same time?

          Overall, OP should not indulge their actual ask, but providing a small token – a $5 coffee shop gift card or an afternoon off 1-2 times/year – can still be beneficial. And maybe don’t bother inviting them anymore and they won’t even know what they are missing because it’s doing more harm than good.

          1. WillowSunstar*

            Could it be the gas prices? Because it is where I work. Upper mgmt has tried actual free lunches to entice people to come in. The problem is that one free lunch does not offset the gas cost. If the company doesn’t increase wages/salaries accordingly, I’m not sure they’ll be able to get people to come in who don’t live fairly close. Honestly, any company that isn’t willing to compensate accordingly with the current inflation is probably going to lose some people over it.

        3. Books and Cooks*

          Yes, but it also depends on just how “remote” the WFH employees are. If they’re twenty-miles-of-good-road away, then yes, they can come in, and it’s on them if they choose not to (just as in-office employees might not care for pizza or massages). If they’re an hour and a half away and it’s all toll roads, or don’t have accessible transport, then it’s a bit different.

        4. Sss*

          Sure, but we don’t allow that kind of attitude when it comes to other things, like in the example in my original comment.

          We don’t allow for exercise-based events only so long as the manager doesn’t explicitly say “No, coworker with asthma, you can’t come hiking with us”. The people who don’t want to exercise are making the choice not to participate!

          I think the issue is that that employer isn’t offering enough variety. I don’t think that every single event needs to cater to both WFH and office-going employees. But I think they need to expand their variety to include events that WFH people can attend without coming in.

        5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Except that it depends just how feasible it is for people to come in for free pizza. Note that this letter dates from the Before Times, when remote workers were usually remote for a reason the boss couldn’t really argue with, mostly for geographical reasons rather than medical.

    10. starfox*

      These comments are so shocking to me…. So many people saying that the remote workers deserve more perks and the LW sounds bitter. Uh, what?? They are CHOOSING to work from home! That’s the perk!

      I would love to work from home, but it’s not possible in my field. I can’t imagine complaining that the in-person staff got lunch or whatever. I would much prefer to cook my own food at home, anyway!

      1. Sss*

        And your comment is shocking to me. WFH isn’t a perk. It isn’t a reward. It is literally just a work set-up. One with advantages and, yes, disadvantages.

        They shouldn’t be excluded from all morale-boosting events just because of location. Their morale matters too. They deserve appreciation too.

        I’m not even a remote worker…

          1. Claire W*

            I can’t, because of health reasons. Many people can’t because not all remote work is working 30 mins away from the office – they may have an unfeasibly long commute, or have caring responsibilities that mean they can’t really be away from home for too long, or anything else. We need to stop pretending that WFH is just simply a free perk for people, for many it’s a necessity and shouldn’t mean they get absolutely no consideration or appraciation from their company.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I love working at home.

              But! I’m not doing it so I can lounge around in sweatpants. I’m mobility impaired, and I have several people in my household who are high risk for covid – immune compromised, diabetic, over 70, etc. That “free pizza” will never be worth my housemates’ lives. So it’s not a “perk” as much as a safety measure. I turned down a lot of interviews, etc because they would have required “hybrid” work, and the risk was too high for me to go into a poorly ventilated open plan germ pit even one day a week.

              I don’t need pizza, can’t eat it any more. I make better coffee than almost every office I’ve ever worked in. I’ve almost got my desk set up dialed in, I just need to replace my chair. But it would be nice to be included by Zoom in all-hands or team building stuff.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I agree. And I’m a hybrid employee who’s willing to go to the office occasionally to meet my coworkers, and to enjoy the perks we sometimes get.

          We have a lot of freedom to decide for ourselves how often we want to go to the office, although my employer has asked people not to WFH 100% unless it’s absolutely necessary. So an employee who has to WFH permanently to protect their health or the health of a family member can absolutely do so. It would be unfair if those employees never got any perks, or were excluded from all morale-boosting events. So there’s a mixture of in-office events and virtual events, most of which are completely voluntary.

  3. Dr. Rebecca*

    Still smh at Ann. If it is a disability/physical problem, a screen reader or other assistive tech might help (though as you mentioned “comparing her printout with the screen” I think it’s probably not…) but either way her current workaround is unsustainable. I would love to see an update on this one.

      1. Nea*

        That was an absolute jaw-dropper. Did Ann not know how the business ran before she took the job?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think there have to be vanishingly few jobs where it’s the norm:
          • That you work remotely
          • While collaborating heavily with the rest of a team
          • With none of this involving any screens or digital technology

          1. Nea*

            As I say downthread, I’ve worked with someone with a “print it all out” mentality and it was completely unworkable. As in, we ended up doing his work or redoing his work because you can’t click the link to a shared drive from a printout.

            So he printed out his instructions and just… didn’t share anything. It was all on his personal drive, which meant if there was a change we had to redo all the work from scratch rather than open the shared drive and make one tweak.

            1. MoveAlongNothingToSeeHere*

              Back in the late 90s, the CEO of a dot-com startup I worked for wanted us to print off our website for him (it was all in Flash so, um HOW). He also wanted us to print the websites of any links we had on our site. He was the CEO, so he got a couple of thick binders plunked on his desk a few days later. Le sigh.

            2. Print it all*

              I worked with someone once who felt the need to print everything.

              I was working this side project. Look up an address, go to a website, confirm the address, update as needed. A bit more complex then that, but that was it in a nutshell. I had 30 records left to work. One day she comes up to me, “Hey, the system is down, I understand you have that side project, I know how to do that, I can do some until the system comes back up.”

              She takes my list and works on it for a half hour until the system comes back. In a half hour, I would have finished, maybe 5.

              She comes back, “sorry, the system is back, I didn’t get to anything on the list, I did print screens of all of the addresses I’d have to look up. That is easier for me, but I’ll keep the list for now, and try to get some done.”

              Perhaps a month or two later she comes back to me, “sorry, I haven’t gotten to any of these, but here are my printouts.” She walks away and misses me tossing her print outs into the trash… actually recycling. I’m still livid about that to this day.

          2. Karia*

            Forest ranger and fire watcher. That’s the only two I could come up with, and they’re typically expected to use a radio.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, I remember reading this when it was first posted and wondering how to resolve it. Wish the OP would send us an update.

      1. This is Artemesia*

        This person sounds like a consultant — I’d not renew that contract. A person with a disability would figure out how to make this work more seamlessly for the client; this is someone who will be a net drag on any work they are supposed to be doing.

    2. FrenchCusser*

      They make e-ink computer monitors now. They’re expensive and not good for video, but they’re cheaper than flying around the country!

      1. Thegreatprevaricator*

        Yeah. I work in a role where I have to read a lot of documents and personally find it hard work to review documents on screen. No diagnosis of any relevant disability, I just don’t like it and find handwritten notes helpful to catch details. However, my work provided us with a touchscreen laptop. That plus a stylus and being able to write directly on to pdf plus a second screen when having remote meetings… game changer!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m kind of gobsmacked both that she proposed “fly me around the country to attend all these meetings in person” and that this wasn’t immediately shut down.

      1. somanyquestions*

        Who doesn’t just fire them at that point? How could any of this person’s work be competent or trustworthy? Unless she comes up with a time machine to get back to 1990, she isn’t going to be a reasonable employee.

    4. Pants*

      I’d like an update on Ann as well. For sake of this comment, I’m opting to the case that it is not a disability or something in need for accommodation.

      I wondered if it was an age thing at first. The older managers that I’ve worked for in the past wanted me to print everything because they worked better on paper. However, they were managers (and high up the chain) and didn’t need to review the screens, processes, etc. for every single step. Their jobs allowed for them to want to see a lot of what they want on paper. (Including email. Ugh. Printing off 50 to 100 emails in a day gets very irritating, very quickly.)

      I also wonder how Ann applied to the contracting service. Did she do it on screens? Did she take the software tests? Did she email the service? Did she tell them she can’t/won’t work on screens? (99.99% she did not or she wouldn’t have been placed in an office.)

      Digital tracking, filing, and archiving has been the norm for 20+ years now, in my experience. The “paperless” initiative to help combat waste, etc. has been around for ages. Sure there’s still paper, but it’s not the main way of revising, filing, collaborating, communicating. To complain about using technology to track projects, especially across locations, is madness. This is a digital world. Does Ann know about the internet? Does she use it?

      Ultimately, if Ann still pushed back on the digital/paper thing, OP could/should get in touch with the agency contracting Ann, tell them the situation, and let the agency sort it out with her. I’m willing to bet it would come down to “Use screens or we’ll pull you from the position and remove you from our candidate pool.”

      1. Unaccountably*

        All of the people I’ve known who wanted to use printouts for everything were over 50 – but there have also been about four of them. Every other person I’ve worked with, in any age group, have been fine with (or preferred) working with digital. I’m also over 50 and I hate hard copy like it is a personal offense against me.

        So I think that to the extent age is involved it might be that people who are higher up on the corporate ladder, who tend to be older just by virtue of having been in the workforce longer, have the pull to insist on dealing with hard copy without that nonsense being stepped on immediately.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I’m 61, a computer professional for over 25 years, and I get very annoyed when people print out stuff for me to read! See, on a screen I can adjust the font to the size and type I need. I can’t do that with a 10 pt, single-spaced printout.

          The only thing I need hard copy for is stuff I have to wet sign. Even then I just end up printing it out, reading it, signing it, and scanning it back in.

    5. Nineleaf*

      It may be good to suggest a screen reader anyway, even she doesn’t “need” one from a diagnosed disability perspective. There are open source ones like NVDA.

      On the other hand…they take a while to get the hang of, and require a little tech savvy, which is what sounds like Ann’s real problem.

      1. A Person*

        Yes, I think it’s good to suggest these kind of adjustments (and check the ergonomic setup of the desk) – as long as it’s reasonable and would actually enable her to perform the role effectively, of course. Even if the person doesn’t have a diagnosed condition it can be helpful, and sometimes people are reluctant to disclose or aren’t aware that they actually have a condition. In Ann’s case it might also make it clearer whether reading from the screen is actually the issue, or whether it’s technology in general.

    6. WillowSunstar*

      Is it possible this person is trying to cover up a lack of technology skills? I’ve seen this done in the past with people who were not adept at computers.

      1. somanyquestions*

        If you’re a terrible driver you can’t apply at nascar & demand they move to horse & buggy races. That’s just so freaking weird, lol.

  4. Maggie*

    For the maternity leave question, this isn’t possible for all positions, but I had one work from home day about a week before my return where my sole task was combing through my inbox (no one other than my supervisor even knew I was “in”). It let me extend my leave by an extra day at the end and meant I had relatively few surprises when I was back for good.

    1. MsClaw*

      I can’t speak to the exact details of the pregnant OP, but I used disability leave to cover the first 6 weeks of my maternity leave. It was made *very* clear to me that I was not allowed to do any work of any kind (including responding to email) during that period or I could end up completely horking up my disability claim.

      1. Maggie*

        Yes, this was during a portion of leave covered by FMLA, which does not have to be used consecutively.

        1. Coenobita*

          I’ve seen people incorporate this into their return-to-work plan, after being on leave: their first day back is a Wednesday or Thursday, and for that first short week they work from home or have no meetings and spend dedicated time getting caught up. From the employer’s perspective (financially/legally) the person is back from leave, but from the employee’s perspective they’re not all the way back all at once.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            My friend did her first week back WFH and the boss told her to block the at least M-W as “Busy” on the calendar. It gave her time to clean the inbox, get up to speed, and selectively respond to any new emails (or not). She said it was a really nice on-ramp back to work

      2. Fluffyfish*

        I think a version of it could still work depending on the employer and if discussed in advance with the supervisor.

        Something where the official first day back from leave, say Monday, is only known to the employee and their boss and HR obvi. They work from home that day and sort through the emails and maybe something like review a brief from the team on the status of projects. Hell make it however many days 2-3, whatever, is needed to get a grasp on things before getting bombarded.

        Then the announced return to work date to the team is actually Tuesday, or Wednesday or whatever. Same result but in compliance with not doing work when on leave.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I came back from leave intermittently and I did something similar. The first day back, the baby went to daycare and I worked from just to sort through everything and get caught up. It gave me a chance to practice my routine including pumping and daycare dropoff.

    3. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      In the UK, you get 10 Keeping in Touch days which are fully paid, to use during mat leave – one colleague of mine used one a month for the last 3 months of her leave just to go through emails and just catch up on what had changed while she was away.

  5. Keener*

    For the question about perks being offered for work from home employees, I think there is one key consideration missing from Allison’s answer. Are there any barriers/issues that mean the suggestion for those employees to come into the office isn’t really practical? For example, are there appropriate desks and chairs available if these people choose to work from the office? Are the docking stations/screens compatible with the individual’s laptop? Do they have access to an appropriate set-up including soundproofing if they are facilitating virtual meetings? Etc.

    Before dismissing the employee’s requests I think the employer needs to have a discussion with each remote employee to confirm there aren’t work related reasons that are making them choose to stay home and miss out on the perks. Its pretty demoralizing to be told by your employer its too bad/so sad that you’re missing out on something when the employer is failing to provide a set-up that would enable you to participate.

    1. Antilles*

      OP said that they always extend the offer to remote employees to come in and work in-office that day, but people choose not to. That doesn’t read to me to be anything about the “lack of desks” or anything else, just that the remote employees prefer not to.
      Also, FWIW, the OP responded in the original thread and clarified that they have plenty of spare workstation setups available – most of these remote employees were originally in-person so all their setups (desk, chair, etc) are still ready and waiting any time they want to hop in the car for a day to enjoy the catered lunch or whatever.

      1. Keener*

        Fair enough if the remote employees have their old desks to use in office. My office offers complete flexibility on in office and remote or a hybrid. This generally works fine but there are a number of cases where someone has complained about being excluded from something in office was was told they should come into the office on those days. However that isnt a viable option for them because their laptop doesnt work with the standard docks at our hot desks or other technology related issues.

  6. No Soup for You*

    #2 From my own experience, I would wonder if your employee has some visual impairment, and does not want to tell you for fear they will be treated differently.

    1. OfOtherWorlds*

      But employee #2 needs to tell her employer if she has a visual impairment so that they can engage in an interactive process to find a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Not asking for an accommodation so that she can be treated like anyone else ends in her being fired for refusing to do a core part of her job and in general being hostile to technology.

    2. Nea*

      But Ann has already set herself up for different treatment and negatively so. She’s holding up meetings, complaining about business processes, expecting expensive trips – this isn’t doing her the slightest good if she’s trying to hide a disability.

      My department worked with someone who tried to print everything out rather than work online and it was a nightmare for the rest of us. He “couldn’t find” info because he couldn’t do word searches on paper. He “couldn’t access” all the necessary shared drives because he couldn’t click a link on paper. In short, he couldn’t perform the SOPs necessary for the job and dragged the whole group down.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Ann is a contractor. IANAL, so I don’t know whether the company is obligated to provide accommodation if she requests it.

      On the other hand, the terms of the contract could be used to hold Ann accountable. “Per our agreement, you agreed you can do X for us; the requests for travel and printing are costs we didn’t budget for, and we’re not seeing progress toward X goal. Can you still perform the work as outlined in the contract?”

      1. Pants*

        INAL either but am a contractor. The Company will provide accommodation if I request it and the accommodation is within standard reasoning. I don’t think flying me across the country would apply, especially since they’d have to still pay a premium on my time. In my particular state, they’d also have to pay me regular wages for travel time, which would put me into overtime if I go straight to an office for an 8 hour day after flying. (Had a coworker/contractor who went through that mess in my last job.) Company can also request that Contract Agency provide the accommodations. It’s all a matter of the agreement/contract between the two.

        OP could use the Agency to communicate the expectations to Ann. That’s the Agency’s job as Ann’s technical employer.

      2. Rain's Small Hands*

        They are, but the reality of the situation is that they call the contract firm and terminate it early saying she isn’t a good fit – even if she’d asked for accommodation. The letter writer has given no indication that Ann has requested ADA accommodation, and they certainly aren’t obligated to guess.

        1. Migraine Month*

          In fact, trying to guess your employee’s disabilities is a pretty terrible practice and leads to all sorts of weird tiptoeing around them rather than managing them.

          “I didn’t want to assign this project to Dave because I think he might be bipolar” or “I flew a contractor across the country because they might have a vision issue” are not good management techniques.

    4. Unaccountably*

      But Ann is already requesting that the company give her special treatment in multiple ways, by making demands that aren’t reasonable accommodations for someone with no disability to accommodate. I get that people are not necessarily rational about things, but if Ann worked for me, she would not be able to fulfill her job tasks, so I would have to let her go. If I have to let her go because she’s got a disability for which, after working together in good faith, we could not find accommodations, I’ll feel bad about it and give her as good a reference as I can. If I have to let her go because I think she’s a disruptive Luddite making unreasonable requests, I’m not giving her a reference or hiring her for any other work that potentially could be accommodated.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    We do occasional–like twice a year–all-office Zoom meetings with a short trivia contest or whatever, and the prize is a digital gift card of some sort. Even if you’re in-office you participate on Zoom.

    The rest of the time, if you want to participate, you don’t WFH that day. Events are typically announced weeks or months in advance so people can plan (make sure they have childcare, etc.) if they wish to attend.

    1. Salsa Verde*

      This is a good balance.
      We are doing a picnic and someone just asked me if there would be an online component for people who couldn’t or don’t feel comfortable attending, and when I said we really hadn’t planned for an online component for a picnic, she wrote me back a three paragraph email about how it sends a bad message if we say we are dedicated to hybrid work.
      But we have online celebrations multiple times a year! I don’t think hybrid work means that every event has to have an online component – seems like all that would do would be to reduce the number of in-person events we do have.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Online component for a . . . picnic?

        I would ask her to plan that, then, if it’s so important to her. I’d love to see how she thinks that could reasonably be implemented.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Also: We have very few events. Like 3-5 a year, tops. And they’re not elaborate–they’re things like a box lunch and a couple of low-stakes games, and then everyone goes back to work. Nobody is missing out on a big Christmas bash or a fancy catered lunch.

  8. Fluffyfish*

    Good lord OP3 do you hear yourself?

    Should I tattle on an applicant to their employer? WHY? Employees are not commodities. They are not a line on the balance sheet. They are not indentured servants. They do not owe an employer anything other than the agreed upon work and not being a sh*thead to work with.

    Employees are human being with autonomy. They are allowed to leave jobs. They are allowed to not tell their employer they are thinking of leaving. In fact in almost all circumstances they should NOT tell their employer.

    Employee turn over is a cost of doing business. If your client can’t handle that then they have no business being in business.

    Please do a complete overhaul of what you think an employee owes their employer.

    1. Up and Away*

      Plus the word “fiduciary” was misused in this particular situation. The whole thing was a bit much.

      1. somanyquestions*

        Like they’re somehow obligated to be loyal to their clients under any circumstances. You could never use their competitor’s dish soap because of your “fiduciary” duty.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      There are some professions, especially in the financial sector, where going directly from an employer to a client of the employer without informing all parties FIRST is a huge ethics no-no, like, gets people stripped of their professional licenses no-no.

      1. Doctors Whom*

        Yeah, but if you are in one of those professions with those rules or stringent noncompete/no-poaching clauses …. everyone involved would already know and not need to ask Allison:)

      2. Fluffyfish*

        Yeah and there’s also companies with no compete clauses.

        But OP didn’t indicate either of those were remotely the case. Leaving out a huge important fact like that is unlikely.

    3. Sacred Ground*

      I think they really just need to overhaul what a vendor owes their client. Their primary concern seems to be that they could foul up the relationship with their client if they hire the client’s employee or withhold the news that employee is applying and interviewing. OP is treating it as kind of an ethical conflict, but the real concern is a simple business interest in not angering a client.

      But this seems to be just the OP’s problem, clearly her own bosses have no problem with it since they already interviewed the person. If they knew there would be a conflict that would preclude hiring that person, they would not have bothered with interviewing them, I’d think.

  9. LaDiDa*

    Working from home is the perk. No commute, savings for business clothes, saving on lunches, being able to cuddle your pet, or letting the repair guys in- those are the perks for working from home. WFH people need to stop demanding things like this before they ruin it for everyone.

    1. Pants*

      This. I would be livid if these entitled booger-heads caused WFH privileges to be revoked. Like, pitchforks and torches.

      1. yikes*

        wow y’all are both…pretty rude. it’s reasonable for remote employees to want opportunities to build culture along with the in-office staff. some people work remotely as an accomodation, not simply a perk, so their companies should attempt building good will and inclusion by offering SOME opportunities that are inclusive of remote folks.

        if “entitled booger-heads” are requesting that the culture of their companies responds to their slightly different needs, then the companies should attempt to find reasonable solutions.

        1. LaDiDa*

          They aren’t asking for ways to build culture. They are asking for free lunch and massages which they could receive by going into the office.

          1. Pants*

            Thank you. Since the letter was about employees wanting gift cards for the free lunches they’re not getting by choosing to WFH and/or not going into the office that day, I figured that was obvious.

            So no. If you can go into the office for the free massage but choose not to, you don’t get a gift card for a massage at a time more convenient to you. And yes, you are an entitled booger-head for asking.

          2. Andy*

            Which would not be home office. You are saying that people working from home should accept second rate status or become in office.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              No, they should accept that getting a huge perk (wfh every day) instead of a few small (pizza and donuts sometimes) ones is not anything like “second rate status.”

              1. Bob-White of the Glen*

                A HUGE perk. I would give anything to be WFH – save $50 in gas a week for starters. Are the in-office crowd getting $50 work of perks a week? No? Then they make more than me for the same work because they keep more of their paycheck.

                While I agree with sentiments about employee moral, etc., and I absolutely think the company should do an in-building e-mail list, WFH employees should take some time to look at all they have. This is a pretty ungrateful bunch and I don’t think it would hurt them to make of list of the benefits they have, that the in-office crowd doesn’t

                1. catsoverpeople*

                  I’m with you — after loving my WFH life for over a year, I was ordered back to the office and that’s that. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that I gained weight, but having to re-buy dress-code-appropriate clothing in a bigger size to do the same work I was performing in exercise clothes (I always changed out of PJs, brushed my hair, and put on a little makeup at home) was a more frustrating expense than the high gas prices.

                  As someone who always dreaded forced social interactions with colleagues in the name of bonding or morale (those things only work if you actually want to spend non-working time with work people), I usually opt out of those types of events anyway, or at least sit awkwardly to the side and try to smile more. I’d gladly go back to WFH in exchange for missing out on a few birthday treats or an awkward pizza lunch with grandboss present. I wouldn’t feel any less appreciated, and I bring my own coffee from home anyway.

                  That said, name-calling is rarely an effective way to convince someone of your argument.

        2. Yellow Rose*

          Since Covid, my company has moved all but production staff and management to WFH, without an option. I’ve worked in both locations; the production staff has the luxury of ‘water cooler chat’ that WFH does not have, as our Skype and Teams are monitored. So, the WFT has all the heavy lifting of high stress work and none of the interpersonal team building that the inhouse staff has, free lunches notwithstanding.

          1. Salsa Verde*

            Skype and Teams are monitored to the point that you feel you cannot speak freely on them? Wow. That’s unfortunate. I assume all work communication is monitored but I also assume no one is really paying attention unless there is a some specific reason – specific keywords or something.

        3. Karia*

          Agreed. We were switched between the two at the whim of my last company and while I enjoyed the privacy / ability to concentrate at home, I was client facing and had billable hours, so (like a lot of people) didn’t have the flexibility / savings on office wear that (for some reason) people assume are a given with remote.

        4. Third or Nothing!*

          I have an accommodation to work from home. My main perk is not dying. Whee!

          All the other perks, like being able to go for a walk or do a quick chore to clear my head, being distraction free, and getting to pet my dog have all made me a much more efficient worker. I’ve actually taken on a lot more work and still get it done in less than 40 hours. I create way more value to my employer now than I ever did in office. I wish employers would take that into consideration when listing out all the perks of working from home.

    2. BL73*

      100% agree. If I lost my WFH bc people who felt it was unfair that the office employees got extra perks, I’d revolt. I can walk my dog multiple times a day, do my laundry on breaks, go to the grocery store over lunch, cook my own food all in my PJs with a nice top on the rare days I need to be on camera. Just stop complaining already before we lose what we have!

      1. Claire W*

        I need to WFH to avoid landing back in hospital on oxygen again, it’s ridiculously rude and entitled of YOU to suggest that I’m being rude by expecting my company to let me *protect my health* and still wuish I could feel like I was included in the ways the company tries to shows it appreciates their employees. WFH is not a ‘perk above all perks’ for everyone, for some of us it’s simply a necessity! How is it fair to say we should never be included in anything else the company does just because we CAN’T go into the office.

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          How much do you spend on commuting? I spend $200 a month. Do you think I’m getting $200 worth of perks from the office? If you get food cards sent to you because I’m served a mass produced sandwich, do I get commuting money each month?

          And how nice you get to stay home to protect your health. I can’t come in and I get fired, even if I can do a big chunk of my job from home. Maybe you should look at what you do have instead of whining about what you don’t have?

            1. lizesq*

              You’re acting like those of us who were also hospitalized from Covid and still have to work on site don’t exist… but we do and I agree with Bob-White. I spend over $250 and close to 40 hours a month commuting and occasionally get a free lunch. I’d much rather have that time and money than cheap free coffee in the office and a free lunch once a quarter. If my office decided that WFH employees who end up with more take home pay than me also get gift cards/to leave early/free massages in the name of “fairness” that would feel like a slap in the face, especially because I cover their in-office work!

            2. Bob-White of the Glen*

              You know nothing about MY health situation. But I have to go in, no options/other jobs that pay enough. So yes, I said to appreciate what you have. And I’m guessing the friends (3) I lost to COVID would love to be in this person’s shoes and wouldn’t care about a lunch either.

    3. WillowSunstar*

      Exactly. Also with the increased cost of gas these days, people who don’t commute ever are probably saving themselves anywhere from $50-$100 a week, depending on where they live. Possibly more depending on length of commute. It’s saving money to stay home now.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I think there are “we value you so much, so you can work from home as a perk” offices, and “ugh, we have to let you work from home, but we don’t like it, or you” offices, and many other variations. I think OP’s office might be a “you can work from home, and we value everyone equally” office which is reading as “we prefer people to be in the office and we tolerate those working from home.” If they can fix the misreading with a gift card…they might want to consider it?

  10. Ari*

    How often are the catered lunches happening? Our office is fully remote and we get a weekly GrubHub credit that’s good for a certain period of time on team meeting days. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to spend whatever money you would have spent on an in-person lunch and let the remote employees get something too.

    1. Rain's Small Hands*

      Though honestly, its way cheaper for me to cater one delivery for ten people than to have meals dropped off at five people’s homes. The delivery charges hit the budget hard. And, when I worked in an office, I could get great rates catering from the cafeteria that really couldn’t be matched by local restaurants since the markup on their boxed lunches was contracted. So a boxed lunch in the office $5.75. A boxed lunch delivered to you at home, easily twice that? Pizza for twenty in the office is five pizzas at $20 each plus a small delivery charge. There is an economy of scale in office that is lacking with WFH staff. There is also the secondary reason I feed a project team in the office – its a chance for socialization. I’m paying you to make chit chat with your coworkers over food so you go out of your way for them next week when they need quick turnaround. I’m not getting that if I’m having Chipotle delivered to your door (and you probably don’t want to sit on Zoom and eat).

      Likewise with the on site massage. I can get someone to come in and do ten or fifteen minute chair massages for less than a thousand dollars for the afternoon. In the afternoon they can see twenty employees – and each of those employees is away from their desk for at most half an hour. Its a big bang for a small buck. Giving out massage gift certificates is much more expensive – and is going to be much more time consuming to use for the staff.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I believe Ari is suggesting just crediting an account for the amount paid per employee, not paying for a full lunch with delivery fees. The catering was $5.75/person. Credit the employees with $5.75. They can save it and let these build up or pay for the difference.

        I agree the massage gift card request is unreasonable. If the employees are hourly, I’d probably just let them finish work an hour early that day or something else that is a small stress reliever.

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Then change it to everyone gets the hour off. Because If I get a 15 minute massage (which I would not use because I hate being touched) and the person who doesn’t have a 30-minute commute at the end of the day gets an hour off, then I’m again giving more time and money (commuting costs/dressy clothes, etc.) than the WFHer who’s doing laundry during our meeting. How is that fair?

          Maybe WFHers should start appreciating what they have?

    2. to varying degrees*

      I think the difference is though is that where no one in your company is coming in, so everyone is getting the perks of WFH, there are in office people in the LW’s office who do have to come in, which means, commute, money for gas/car, wardrobe considerations, etc. The WFH perks are not afforded to the so they are given in a different way.

      1. Migraine Month*

        It’s unclear from the letter what purpose the perks are supposed to serve. Is it “this is a perk for people who are unable to use the WFH perk”? Is it a bribe to get people into the office? Is it supposed to bring teams together?

  11. HelloHello*

    The remote workers I can see depending on circumstances and I think it’s a case where a little can go a long way.
    For example – my current position has a similar events/can come in as is in the letter. I’m remote and it doesn’t bother me and makes sense. I would just exclude remote folks for non-planned event emails (hey, Bob brought fancy donuts in the break room,etc) and make sure the remote folks aren’t feeling excluded in other ways. Remote employees should feel like part of the team, even if they aren’t in the office.

    If it’s an event where you’d give a gift to the folks only if they are in the office, definitely mail it (ex, a holiday present, tshirts for a conferences, not like play this trivia game and win a prize). Those have been the points of frustration at my job before.

    If the event is a celebration/reward type thing, work with the remote folks and see what you can do, especially in advance. I had a job where I was the only staff member at that location (closest co worker was over an hour away). I was the only one in my department with that situation. We finished a huge project and got an email from our CEO saying the head at each location will be providing food that day to celebrate. I had to reach out to my boss and figure out what the process was for me – is it being ordered? Do I expense? What’s the budget? I don’t mind reaching out but I’m sure other folks would feel left out and grumble. I even felt a little stung that I had to reach out and plan, because it felt like I was forgotten being so remote. That’s something you should help with.

  12. Bernice Clifton*

    #3 That’s not what a fiduciary obligation is in the common financial parlance nor in the dictionary definition.

  13. The Rural Juror*

    It’s worth pointing out that having catering or a massage therapist comes at a lower cost per person if everyone is in the same location (in office). When our company does catering, it’s usually for a large enough group that the price per box/plate is lower.

    Remote employees who want a gift card are probably not considering that the $ amount will not get them as far, or the company will have to pay more for their experience to make them close to equal. I do like the idea someone else above suggested of giving them a once a year gift card, which would have a better chance of giving them a good experience.

    1. Rain's Small Hands*

      That was my thought as well. I’ve worked for plenty of companies where getting the budget for a pizza lunch for the team was difficult enough – adding the budget to have individual deliveries would have just made us say “no” for everyone.

    2. LawLady*

      Yeah, many people seem to be posting as though doordashing a treat is just the same. But bringing in bagels, even from the fanciest place in my city and with the premium cream cheese flavors is still going to cost under $3 per person. That won’t even cover the delivery fees to doordash something.

      1. Bankerchick*

        I worked in a bank where “treats” usually came from vendors or partners when we sat through a presentation. Bag of bagels or box of donuts for the team. Maybe a couple pizzas for lunch. Nice treat since we had to be there anyway. But we would never would have received anything had they been expected to send delivery to individual homes . Would have cost more for delivery than the food.

        Stuff like that made coming to the office a tiny bit more palatable but I don’t think a single one of my coworkers would have complained about missing out if they had the opportunity to work from home. Which we never did.

        Oh. And our HQ was several states away and we would all get the company wide emails inviting everyone for a day at the amusement park or a ball game. Meet and greet with CEO. Could never take advantage but we learned to ignore them. Sure we could rant about getting something too but that wouldn’t be helpful. Not worth being labeled a whiner over.

    1. Miette*

      LOL. But seriously, you’ll be surprised at how easily folks will adapt to not copying you on their emails while you’re gone. It’s when you’re nearly back that the volume will pick back up.

      1. Migraine Month*

        Honestly, getting cc’d on things that don’t involve me annoys me even when I’m at work. One of the first things I did at my new job was set up an email filter that grabs anything sent to one of the email lists (rather than my email address), marks it as “read” and shoves it into a folder that I never check.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      I was gone for a month for a vacation to Australia and DID NOT take any method of communication with the office with me. With my manager’s knowledge I set my out of office to say something like, “I will be out of the office from XX/XX to YY/YY and not checking email. When I get back, I’m going to dump my entire inbox. If you need help now, contact ZZZZ; if it’s something I will need to see after I get back, here’s how to schedule a send date {links to delayed send for Outlook and Gmail} for after I return.” Then I set up rules for forums and things like that to send them to subfolders. When I got back, I hit CTRL-a and Delete and had an empty inbox.

    3. DryEraseAficionado*

      That’s basically what I did. I came back from maternity leave and archived my entire inbox. I think I needed to search for like 3 emails in the first few weeks, otherwise I never needed them. Which is also telling about the relative importance of most emails.

    4. PR hirer*


      LW4, come back to work and start with a clean inbox.

      If it’s important, either your team or your clients will catch you up.

  14. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW4 could look at setting up some Rules for her inbox during her absence, eg if it’s To: Boss then send it straight to an FYI folder, if the subject line includes “break room” then delete, etc. That filters a lot of the noise.

    Then you group by conversation and just read the most recent. It’ll only take one day – but it will take a whole day.

  15. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

    #2: I think it must be awfully hard to navigate the modern world with a quirk like this, regardless of whether it’s self-imposed or due to a disability. I wonder if she knows most screens can be fiddled with to make them easier on the eyes, and even if there aren’t ways to adjust the hardware you can use apps (f.lux is one I know off the top of my head) to adjust the levels. I totally get that sometimes nothing beats a hard copy, but if there’s a physical reason preventing her from being comfortable with screens, I bet there is a solution out there she just might not be aware of.

    1. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

      (I want to clarify that I’m not trying to be one of those AH that are constantly saying stuff like “have you tried X? have you tried Y???” to folks with disabilities as if it’s never occurred to them. I’ve just found that some people who are less familiar with technology might not know all their options. That being said…I wonder if Ann has ever tried yoga???)

  16. MxBee*

    LW1’s remote staff don’t seem to be complaining that they aren’t included in the in-person events, but that all the events are for in-office staff only, which is a different issue. Would it be possible to arrange some events that can happen virtually, so remote staff can be included? Even just something like a zoom/Teams video quiz can help make them feel included as part of the team, instead of being excluded from all team events because they aren’t in the office.

    (Not even going into why they aren’t coming into the office for the other events because there are so many possible reasons for that.)

    1. Irish Teacher*

      This was my thought too. Yes, working from home could be seen as a “perk,” but if all the events are in-person and the attitude is “come in for the day if you want to take part,” it could be seen almost as if people are being “punished” if they don’t come in.

      I’m not saying they should be given gift cards to make up for missing out on a potluck or something, but making some events available to everybody, whether by doing them over zoom or having them out of hours – say a meet-up in a restaurant, if everybody lives near enough – or an event that everybody can do in their own time – we had a Steps Challenge at work during the lockdown, another possibility might be a raffle with the result announced on zoom… There are many ways.

      I do get that there are benefits to working from home and that missing out on things like potlucks and dress up for Halloween are part of the trade-off there, but…it does seem like the people working from home are being excluded from the team a bit unless they choose to come in and join in on things, so it seems to make sense to have some events they can take part in.

      I wouldn’t give gift cards, but I would find activities that can be done remotely and even if these made up one in four of the events available.

    2. starfox*

      I agree with this!

      I disagree with the remote workers asking for DoorDash gift cards because it’s a MUCH bigger perk to be able to choose whatever restaurant you want and have it delivered to your house than to have some pizza in the break room. And most people would rather have a gift card to go get an actual massage rather than have an awkward, fully clothed, in-office massage.

      But it does make sense to offer some free stuff on Zoom to boost morale.

  17. FYI*

    Hi Alison, the external link provided an ad on the left side that was like a strobe light. Maybe not good for people with epilepsy.

    1. Bison*

      It’s likely ads are programmatic and inserted dynamically by some server somewhere–I doubt Alison has control over what displays on the page at any given time.

    2. pancakes*

      Often times when you click an X in the corner of an online ad to close it, you can select a “give feedback”
      option. I just did it on an ad on another site that was covering up content, and that was one of the options (“ad covers content”). Reporting this to the ad distributor network is the way to go. Almost none of them are booked with personal intervention.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      If it’s a bad ad here, use the report an ad link right above the comment box. If you’re talking about on Inc, it’d likely be more efficient to report it there, rather than trying to go through Alison, who not only doesn’t control it, but probably has no more to do about it than you do.

  18. No, the other Lacey. Not that one, either.*

    I have worked from home for nearly 20 years, with many different managers who have had different ways of dealing with remote staff. It’s been my experience that managers who don’t do anything special for their remote staff beyond inviting them to the office functions also don’t have a great level of engagement with their remote staff in other areas. They aren’t making sure the remote workers have access to projects or training opportunities. They aren’t reaching out to check in on occasion. They’re very much “out of sight, out of mind.” It tanks morale and the career of the remote worker.

    Managers that make sure their remote staff have opportunities and are engaged also do something just for the remote staff on occasion: a small gift or gift card. These things go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t have to be one-for-one with the office staff, just occasionally. Remote staff know working remotely is a great perk, but it’s nice to be acknowledged every now and then.

    And to echo another commenter, when you invite your remote staff to work in the office so they can attend functions, are you making sure those staff have a place and the proper setup to do their work? Is your staff even able to come in? (I’m thinking about prohibitively long drives, disabilities making travel or office work really difficult, etc. )

    There’s a tricky balance to managing both in-office and remote staff, and a lot of it depends on your specific situation. But please make sure you’re engaging both groups and not leaving one alone because they’re not getting face time with you.

  19. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I include all of my staff in catering events. Remote staff have a gift card issued to them the evening before.

    Where onsite staff have a couple of parties in a year, remote staff are sent gift kits. Last Christmas there was a variety of gifts including roombas, keurigs, iPads, AirPods, Apple TVs, PTO bonuses.

    It’s not hard to include your remote staff, you just need to shift your thinking.

    1. blink14*

      Totally agree with this! I’m the first fully remote employee my department has had (part of a large university), and everyone else is on a hybrid schedule. We have department events planned usually every couple of months. Sometimes it makes sense to do a Teams so I can participate, other times it doesn’t, and that’s totally fine. The offer for me to go in whenever I want is always there, but I’ve chosen (with permission) to work remotely from more than one location, so I often am not close by to do that.

      I try to attend the big events like a holiday party or a retirement party (and we take Covid precautions very seriously still as a group). We all received a gift this year for our year end, and mine was mailed to me, along with a really nice card. It didn’t take much effort but felt really good to be included. Same thing with holiday gifts.

      We have a new hire who across the country, and clearly can’t attend these things. I know our team will try to adjust for that wherever possible. I personally am very grateful to be working remotely, while still having a team that includes me, but obviously every little thing can’t be equal.

    2. G*

      Wow. A party, loitering around at work with a few warm beers and people you see every day vs a roomba or iPad? Multiple times a year?

      Do you provide an option to opt-out of the in-person benefits in favour of expensive tech? Otherwise I think you might be over-catering to the remote staff!

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        In-office staff had the same gifts, just not as many, and they were gifted out via a raffle. The in-office party was a 4 course dinner with a live jazz band and open bar. We recently had a bowling night where staff could bring their kids for a few hours of free games, food, and drinks. This coming Christmas we’re going to do Uncle Eddie’s Casino night. All of the parties are held at a venue, never in the office.

        Seems weird to assume that because the WFH arrangement is nice, the trade off would be a lackluster event for the in-office staff.

        1. Books and Cooks*

          But if every remote employee got a Roomba, PTO, or an iPad, and only some of the in-office staff did (I’m open to the possibility that I misunderstood your “just not as many, and gifted via raffle,” and it means not every remote employee got one of those gifts, either), then that is “lackluster” for the in-office staff, and I’d be pretty annoyed if I went home empty-handed. While the party and dinner was probably lovely (and I’ve certainly enjoyed and appreciated office parties like what you described), I’d still much rather cook my own dinner while listening to anything-but-jazz, spending the <ten bucks to make my own single vodka tonic, and looking up the recipe on my new free iPad.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            Ok, but not everyone is like you. I know that this comment section has an enormous bias against nearly any form of social interaction, but indeed there are lots of people out there who enjoy a good party or get-together. Or at the very least recognize what these sorts of gatherings are trying to accomplish and good naturedly go along with it. Getting the most loot possible isn’t everyone’s major priority.

            1. TC*

              I would pick a party hosted by my workplace (we throw excellent parties) over a gadget any day of the week.

  20. Jessica*

    Even if Ann has migraines w/screen as trigger or is recovering from a concussion (both reasons that friends of mine had to avoid doing work/play with screens – even phones – in the past) it still doesn’t make the constant complaining about the work environment being digital or the travel suggestion reasonable.

    If she has a medical reason she can tell you. But “reasonable accomodation” should mean figuring out a way for her to work in a mostly digital environment , not expecting the entire office not to be digital.

  21. Raw Cookie Dough*

    My jaw hit the floor when I read LW3. Thank god this person wrote in to Alison, but it makes me wonder about other decisions this person has made where no guidance was sought. The whole idea of telling the candidate’s employer is so…hostile.

    1. Migraine Month*

      This is actually a pretty common work concern. We’ve had plenty of letters where the LW wants to hire someone who’s currently working for a friend/mentor/family member, but they are afraid it will damage the relationship. Or questions like “do I need to inform my boss that a coworker is interviewing elsewhere”.

      I appreciate that Alison consistently advocates for respecting the employee’s privacy.

  22. Katie*

    Granted, I bend over backwards to not let people go, but Ann is a contractor! If she is not doing the work she is supposed to, then let her go and find one that can do stuff on a computer.
    I bent over backwards trying to help a contractor do basic excel stuff and he just couldn’t. I eventually let him go for other reasons, but I should have stopped it well before that.

  23. remote work IS the perk*

    I truly don’t understand this logic at all. I went from a pretty bougie office environment to working from home, and I honestly…love working from home. Does it kind of suck that I can’t get a chair massage on Wednesdays/don’t get free food regularly? eh, kind of. but the benefit of working from home completely overrides that. The perks in-office and the perks at home are different. If it upsets you enough, work in the office. It’s not that hard.

    1. Canadian Librarian #72*

      Personally, I think it’s less the kind of entitlement you’re implying, and more the psychological phenomenon that results from regularly being told “hey, everyone, you all get [gift/perk/whatever]! In the break room! BUT NOT YOU, Allen, Ilene, AND Jeff.” You can know perfectly well that you’d get that too if you commuted in and that your “perk” is doing your job from home. But the consistent reminder that other people are getting something you’re not can have an effect, whether it’s logical or not.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        But you’re framing this as though people aren’t given the option to come in and get the perk. These obviously aren’t spur-of-the-moment “donuts in the break room” type events. They’re chair massages and catered lunches that obviously have to be planned in advance. They’re being offered to everyone, and some people are choosing not to take them. Then they’re getting sour about their own choice.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, but they are being chosen to fit with certain people’s preferences. It strikes me as a bit like if all the parties were held at say a pub and the management knew some people objected to drinking. It would be their choice not to attend, but…only giving perks that they are likely to choose not to attend does seem like almost a judgement on them. Equally, saying “you can work from home or in person, depending on your personal preferences, but if you want any of these perks, you have to come in on those days,” it does seem like a) it’s EASIER for those who choose to work in person to avail of the perks – they don’t have to change anything and b) like it’s almost trying to make one choice more appealing than the other.

          I do think that looking for gift cards as compensation for choosing not to come in is over the top, but is it really unthinkable to do something over zoom once or twice a year? Or have a raffle that remote employees can buy tickets for. Or have activities that people can do at home, like some challenge where people send in their results? Online gaming? Even as one activity in 5 or something.

          While I agree it’s not possible to please everybody all the time, if all activities are based on a certain group’s preferences and the same people are choosing not to attend all activities, I think you have a problem (unless those people just prefer not to take part in social activities with their colleagues at all, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here, as they are complaining). To me, it’s a bit like a company that gives all its employees free tickets to a sporting event numerous times a year and some people aren’t interested in sports and suggest “hey, maybe you could offer tickets to a concert or something occasionally for people who aren’t into sport” and the company says well, everybody was giving the tickets so it’s fair to all; some people just choose not to use them. It’s true and I guess the company isn’t doing anything wrong – heck, they aren’t obliged to give perks at all – but I still think it is understandable if the people who hate sports feel a bit excluded and I do think it would be best practice if say, one event a year was something other than sports. Equally here, I think it would be nice to do SOMETHING occasionally that doesn’t involve coming on site as some people are expressing that they WOULD like to be involved in events but don’t want to come on site.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            if all activities are based on a certain group’s preferences

            See, I find the use of the word preferences here to be a bit of a problem. If this workplace is like any other (and we have no evidence that it’s not), most of the people coming into the office would much rather be at home. Most of them are likely being mandated into the office because certain functions can’t be carried out from home, etc. Their preferences are thrown out the window daily. An occasional catered lunch that leans in their favor actually seems like the least you could do.

            Would it also be nice to do an all-company event in addition? Yeah, that would be nice too. I’d also love to be Beyonce.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              We don’t really have any idea if the set ups here are or aren’t the results of preferences, though. Sure, “your job isn’t possible to do remotely” is one reason people go into the office, but so is “I feel like a hermit if I don’t go in, and just can’t happily work at home.” Equally, people at home may do it because”yay for sweatpants, cat companionship, and deliveries”, but if you’re doing it because you have a health condition then you may feel like managing your condition isn’t actually a perk.

          2. catsoverpeople*

            I mean….I’m not disagreeing with your post overall, but aren’t all work/social activities chosen to fit only some people’s preferences, including the preference to build morale through social activities in the first place (as you mentioned and I posted above in thread)? Potlucks are more fun for people who like to cook. Boozy holiday parties are more fun for people who don’t mind getting drunk around their coworkers. Massages are probably really uncomfortable for anyone who doesn’t like being touched by strangers at work! And like you also talked about, if only sporting events are chosen, and attending them are what determine your standing as a “team player” by upper managers, then that only benefits employees with that hobby or who can fake their interest convincingly enough.

            Maybe I’m just rambling at this point, but I am still perplexed by all the screeching (not here) around “if some people aren’t in the office, how can we possibly build morale and have social interactions?!” While I worked at home, my boss used Teams calls to ask about my new kittens, and I did the same to ask about her new baby. *shrugs* It wasn’t that hard to do. In the meantime, I wasn’t subjected to overhearing someone’s anti-vax opinions, the infighting between former friends, the everyday office politic dramas, or other time-wasters that don’t apply to my job.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Perhaps that’s part of the problem though? Even if the perk was planned ahead, communication might be going out at the last minute when WFH people won’t be able to change plans quick enough to participate. That would be pretty frustrating… perhaps even more frustrating than if it were something spur-of-the moment!

      2. pancakes*

        In other words, a misplaced sense of entitlement that results from being illogical. That’s a type of entitlement.

  24. Green great dragon*

    re the emails on maternity leave, I did wonder if the cc approach was also a sort of filing system. In which case maybe you leave the ooo on saying things won’t be read, you let people cc but you have a plan which does not involve you reading emails. Such as anything from Fred and George goes to an archive folder, which is there to be searched if something comes up but is otherwise unread, office manager Harry’s are deleted unread and you check in with him on your return, anything else is deleted if it’s over a week old and otherwise read.

  25. Annie J*

    With the cost of living rises currently, the extra costs of heating and electricity alongside possibly having to buy equipment and office chairs means that working from home might not be as much of a Perk as some might think.
    Regardless, I do think it’s worth doing something for the staff who work from home, because they are working in the company and they deserve to be recognised for that, also seems bizarre to me that office workers get so many more perks, I don’t think the company would be bending over backwards for additional lunches and massage days if there wasn’t a separate contingent that are working from home.

  26. RJ*

    The person who had my position at my last job was just like Ann the contractor. Every piece of pending work and communication regarding work/projects was printed out in hard copies. I spend the first six months of that job scanning things and creating digital project folders on our secure servers as well as shredding what I had saved. It amazes me that people still do this and manage to get away with it for long periods of time.

  27. Canadian Librarian #72*

    Honestly, just stop cc’ing remote employees on the free food emails. I wouldn’t be surprised or resentful about on-site coworkers getting perks like free snacks if I could work from home, but it’s amazing how constantly being reminded of something nice that you are expressly not getting or going to get can breed resentment.

    It’s such a simple fix – create an “in-office perks” mailing list in Outlook (or whatever email client you use), and only send out in-office perk emails to that list. Easy.

    It would be nice of you to also send remote employees a Starbucks or Tim’s gift card once a year or so (maybe $25 or something), but honestly I think you can save yourself a lot of trouble just by changing how you announce in-office perks, even if you don’t bother with a gift card.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      I don’t think this is an unreasonable suggestion, but it’s clear that LW is thinking of these events as an opportunity to bring people together. I don’t think that’s an inherently terrible motive. It’s not like they’re cc:ing people who work from home and saying, “Oh by the way, people in the office are getting this great thing.” They’re notifying everyone and saying, “Anyone who wants to participate is welcome to do so.” Some people are just choosing not to and then getting sour about it.

      Not notifying WFH employees would amount to deciding for them whether they will participate or not.

      1. Random Bystander*

        It is a tricky balance, to be sure. And people complaining can get a perk taken away altogether.

        Back when we were in the office, we had an arrangement where someone came in to do chair massages which we each individually paid for ($1/minute) and were to use either our break time (10 minutes, or could combine both for 20 minutes) or our lunch (30 minutes). When the date was set (about 1x a month), the co worker who co-ordinated this would send out an email “chair massages on x date between [hours]” a bit of boiler plate regarding the way time was to be used, and then “if you want to participate, please reply with length of time and a few preferred times”. Then she would go through all the replies and establish a schedule, and another email to just those who had requested the chair massage and also identified the room that had been booked.

        Someone then complained about the whole thing, and the perk ended. Of course, it would be gone now that we’re all WFH, but it still rankled at the time.

  28. ABCYaBye*

    I think LW1 should consider a couple of things:
    1. They are offering the opportunity for WFH staff to participate, and I know they commented that there is space and technology available to do so. So with that in mind, I don’t think there must be a one-for-one setup in which WFH staff gets the exact same perk as those in the office. They’re able to come in and are choosing not to. That is their prerogative.
    2. The old saying, “its the thought that counts” applies here. While the WFH staff is invited and they’re choosing not to attend in person, and they can work in the sweats, are they feeling like they’re not the same part of the team? A DoorDash credit that allows them to get a couple of meals would go a long way. If you’re doing chair massages a couple times a year, could you give each WFH team member a gift card to a massage place in town? Or something that would be similar… a gift card to a spa place? I’m the type of person who would be OK missing the in-office activities, but would feel much more appreciated if I could DoorDash a burrito in my basketball shorts while my teammates in the office were enjoying a taco bar, too.

  29. The Person from the Resume*

    I work from home and those complaints sound like sour grapes.

    I do think if you’re doing a holiday celebration or a celebration of business success, you should figure out away to include this working from home because that should include everyone.

    When you’re doing things as perks for the people that need to dress professionally and commute into the office then you shouldn’t have to offer it to the WFH people. Maybe leave them off the email announcements then. Are any of them coming into the office for the perks? Are all of them close enough to come in?

  30. Kim Dokja Company*

    Personally, I’m tired of remote work being framed as the Ultimate Perk because you get to wear sweatpants and are present for delivery drivers, so of course you don’t get any more benefits. If we truly want to make remote work a new normal option for companies where it’s possible, I think more people have to start looking at it as more like commuting rebates or paid tuition: an extremely nice and beneficial perk for a company to have, but not something that means no other perks should be given.

    That said, it IS pretty unreasonable for all remote workers to want to be included in every catered lunch etc. If that is in fact what they’re asking. I suspect, though, that all they want is a little recognition in the same way workers who head into the office get (it’s also annoying when people think because of the remote work “perk” that those workers shouldn’t be acknowledged or praised in the same way as in the office workers are because hey! Ultimate perk! Sweatpants!!!). I think people who are saying giving a gift card once in a while have the right idea. Or, if it’s something like a fun team-building thing they’re missing out on, setting up some kind of zoom happy hour or whatever. If you get to the core of what they’re unhappy about or what kind of recognition they’re looking for, you can probably come up with a solution to include them in similar ways.

  31. unpopular opinion*

    WFH might be a privilege for some but it isn’t a luxury. It sounds like the LW almost resents their WFH employees for wanting a little bit of appreciation.

    Uncertain how old this letter is (sorry) but we’re still living in a pandemic. Some people need to work from home due to health or family obligations. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to offer different perks to your employees who are working from home. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  32. Person from the Resume*

    Handling email build-up during maternity leave

    Heck, people I work with declare email bankruptcy when they go on vacation for a month and just delete all new messages and start from scratch.

    I will say that for us I don’t think the problem is so much that people are CCing the person who’s OOO, but all the group mailing lists people are on. Someone else from the team handled whatever the problem was while you were out even if it took 20 messages to do so; you don’t need to review all that message traffic. While you were out someone was backing you up. You catch up on your return by talking with team members/attending meetings, but anything pressing should have been directed to someone else while you were out.

  33. Riot Grrrl*

    #1. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing a sizable number of people who go into that office don’t actually want to do so, and would not do so if they had a choice. They are undoubtedly doing so because they serve some function that is not easily done from home. That means that the much bigger morale risk–at least in that domain–is those at the office who have to fight traffic, get up earlier, etc. etc. while their colleagues get to work from home. It doesn’t strike me as unreasonable that you’d do something nice specifically for those people.

    Complaining about a remedial perk for people who are doing the thing that is harder reminds me of when people complain about someone getting “extra” time off because a relative died.

    1. Bankerchick*

      Exactly. I work retail banking and the early days of Covid were hell. Branch employees went to work every day, Wild West style. No vaccines, masks available or mask mandates and our work load exploded. Additional work of helping businesses with loans AND our bank handled the state’s unemployment funds. Overnight we had triple the business . And people ranting about their unemployment. Which we had no access to as far as info-we could just take the money off the cards . Everyone else worked from home. And we were told to be “patient” with them if we needed to call, as they may have children to attend to etc….What about all the moms and dads in the branches who wanted to be with their children?

      We received the occasional pizza or bagels, mostly from higher managements personal pockets. We DID, briefly, receive some hazardous duty pay. But the WFH crowd got wind and many actually complained that they should get “extra” money too and it wasn’t “fair” that we got something they didn’t. I would have gladly gave up any hazardous duty pay for the chance to not be put in that situation and to be able to work from home. As would have most of my coworkers. We lost a lot of good people as they couldn’t or wouldn’t go into work and ended up quitting. During that period the quit rate for the people working from home was almost nil. And we ended up with the hazardous duty pay taken away as the top brass didn’t want to deal with all the whining.

      And I think that so many people, especially those who don’t work from home, feel that it is such a privilege because we are constantly being bombarded with news articles about workers threatening to quit if WFH is taken away from them . If they are “forced” to go back to the office . And that many people will only work for companies that allow them to be fully remote. Even here, postings about “should I apply if I will only work remotely and they want in office or hybrid “? Or something like that. If it were merely an alternative work arrangement with no additional perks, why would it matter? Just everyone come to the office. Only take jobs within commuting distance like people had to do before the internet made it possible to stay home. . But I don’t think that is the case.

  34. Orange+You+Glad*

    My company is holding a lot of in-office events and perks specifically with the goal of getting people into the offices those days. We have a really flexible hybrid system set up right now, but still have a lot of folks not willing to come in. I’d roll my eyes at anyone also demanding more perks at home.

    I prefer working at home – no commute, no dress code, and I can log off if I finish early. Having lunch catered when I have to be in the office is a nice perk to make up for the fact that I have to wake up earlier, dress up, commute, and have to work in a distracting environment right up until 5pm. My company had a lot of remote employees before the pandemic and they were always invited to visit the office on days we had parties/events and it wasn’t a problem.

  35. Ginger Pet Lady*

    One thing that isn’t clear from the OP is what “the opportunity to come work in the office if they want to participate” actually means. A lot of responses seem to assume that it means “for the day the event is held” but I read it differently. I read it as if these events are restricted to those who *regularly* work in the office and the OP is specifically using these events to try and lure remote workers to the office. If that’s what’s going in, OP is creating a tiered system where remote workers ARE being excluded as a manipulation.
    No wonder that’s not going over well. It’s a great way to divide a team and create resentment. And it’s not likely to have the result intended.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      It sounds like your theory is that management thinks people will permanently upend their lives for an occasional chair massage and a catered lunch. It seems unlikely to me that anyone would think that would work.

      I’ve been on a few different management teams, and the way these things come up is always the same. It’s always, “What can we do that would be fun for people?” Honestly, that’s it. Nobody’s playing 4-D chess here. If management wanted people to come back into the office that desperately, they presumably have the power to simply mandate it and be done with it.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      No, it means “come in for the day (or partial day) to get the thing”. OP clarified this when the letter was answered originally a few years ago.

  36. Who Am I*

    I don’t understand that attitude. I work from home and will be doing it indefinitely. Working from home is the perk. It’s more valuable that all the free cookies and sandwiches the in-office employees could ever eat and with the price of gas being what it is, it’s saving me a ton of money. Our office is giving everyone who works in the office a gas stipend through the end of the year. Good for them! I’m happy for those employees that they’re getting it. I’m even happier that I don’t need it. (I know WFH isn’t as appealing to everyone as it is to me but that doesn’t change the fact that those of us at home don’t need gas stipends and free cookies.)

  37. Koala*

    I’m floored this is what the working world has come to. It took 25 years in my career to land a remote job. I could care less if lunch is offered onsite to those that still have to go in, WFH is a giant perk!!
    The employer in questioning is offering lunch to everybody, the fact that the WFH employees choose not to go is on them. I’d have a really hard time being professional in my response to these complainers.

    1. pancakes*

      It’s one letter. It isn’t summarizing “what the working world” has come to. It’s about people in one workplace.

    2. allathian*

      WFH isn’t a perk for everyone. For some people it’s a necessity. Granted, this is an old letter, but some people still live like they’re in quarantine to protect their health or the health of a family member. Many disabled people, for whom commuting even a relatively short distance or working in a noisy office environment is an unreasonable burden, are able to WFH just fine.

      1. MidWasabiPeas*

        It can be for all those reasons and still be a perk. It most definitely is for me.

        My WFH started b/c my husband got ill, continued during the height of COVID when whoever didn’t get furloughed became WFH, and was extended for my department because my boss realized our work didn’t miss a beat during WFH (even got some extra projects in) and allowing us to continue remotely would free up space for another department who MUST be onsite to have more room. If he reversed that decision, I would go back to the office but I would look for full-time remote and leave asap because my husband is still ill and his condition has worsened in the last few years. WFH allows us to keep his external contacts to a minimum but I accept it completely as a perk my company permits.

        I also acknowledge that when it’s 5 degrees outside (and it is for several months here in the US Northeast) and I don’t have to get out in the cold, drive in the now and ice, pay for gas, put the mileage and wear-and-tear on my car, and I can sit in front of my computer in my comfy clothes and hot coffee…the idea of whining about not getting a cupcake or a free lunch on one day seems flat-out bonkers to me. I’ll take the extra two years of massively decreased wear and tear on my car (I drove 37 miles each way to work every day) plus the money I’ve saved on gas and dry cleaning over ALL the cupcakes, every day.

  38. A Pound of Obscure*

    re: the LW who asked whether to notify a client that an employee of theirs had applied for a job: I was in this exact situation when I worked for a major consulting firm that (unbeknownst to me) used Staffing Company X to fill many open positions across the country. I was job-hunting and found a posting for a contract position with that same staffing company, so I uploaded my resume. The rep called and informed me right away that my current employer was a client and if I were offered the new job, I’d have to tell my current employer myself before they would be able to negotiate terms with the new organization. I’d also have to make it clear that Staffing Company X had not recruited me. I interviewed and was the new org’s top-scoring candidate, so as agreed, I told my current manager. Thankfully, the new org didn’t change their mind or reject my desired contract rate, and my transition went very smoothly. As a candidate I completely understood the staffing company’s need to avoid a conflict of interest and the risk of telling my current employer that I was interviewing elsewhere was worth it to me.

  39. High functioning remote worker*

    I’m surprised at all the commenters who speak about remote workers with such vitriol. Remote work has its benefits (as other have pointed out) but also its disadvantages (lack of connection, distractions, extra utility costs). Remote work is work and it isn’t inherently less valuable than in person work. Requesting to be included in some form of benefit that others in co-located offices receive is not unreasonable. An employer can choose to ignore those requests but it doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on morale and retention. Also if your ability to work remotely at your company is so fragile that remote workers’ request for equal treatment *in any field* is a threat, maybe it’s time to look for another employer?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      It depends on the purpose of the benefits.
      – “Yay; we had a great year!” celebration should include everyone.
      – “We want to thank the employees who come into the office every day!” benefit doesn’t need to be shared with people who WFH.

      There are pluses and minuses, but WFH seems to be very much preferred by the majority of working people. As such it’s seen as a huge perk/benefit by many people and a benefit that sometimes hard to find. So small in office perks for the people who can’t take part in WFH makes sense and don;t need to be balanced by a similar perk for those who already benefit from WFH.

    2. Riot Grrrl*

      Requesting to be included in some form of benefit that others in co-located offices receive is not unreasonable.

      No, that is not unreasonable at all. Which is why OP’s office sends out a blanket email and invites anyone who wants to participate in the perk to come do so. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates people are being forced to stay home. People are choosing to stay home, and then getting bitter about a choice that they themselves made.

      1. allathian*

        That might or might not be true in this case. It’s an old letter, so Covid’s probably not an issue here, but coming to the office isn’t a reasonable option for many people. For many disabled or immunosuppressed people, the choice is to WFH or not work at all.

        Employers that genuinely care about employee retention, regardless of whether they work at the office or remotely, will provide some opportunities for remote employees to participate in some events without coming to the office.

        This employer frankly sounds like they don’t value remote work the same way as they value work at the office, and it’s understandable that remote employees resent this.

      2. Claire W*

        But many people have reasons they can’t go into the office – health reasons, caring responsibilities, distance from the office, cost of travel, etc etc… It’s not always the easy-peasy choice you’re making it out to be. Do those people not deserve equal recognition for their hard work just because that hard work happened in a different building?

  40. Gwen*

    I went away for maternity leave for four months. Before I went, I made sure my work was given to other members of staff. My inbox was set to forward to the general e-mailadress. When I came back, I did ctrl-A and delete. I know this isn’t possible in all cases, but I would suggest not reading anything older than a week. For everything else a colleague will probably able to fill you in.

  41. CatPerson*

    When I started working from home in March 2020 because of covid, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Because my management never supported it. Complaining because I missed out on office perks that I would have to work in the office to get? I can’t even.

  42. Twill*

    Letter#1 – Maybe I am an outlier here but my work from home perk is I WORK FROM HOME! I guess because I have worked in an office setting for 20 plus years, I have had many pizza in the lunch room days, lunch out with the boss days, donuts in the conference room days. I’m good! Seriously – when I was in the office, doing the commute, interacting with you know, people, something that broke up the day was nice! And I really did appreciate it. But honestly, just the fact I am able to work from home, in comfy clothes, and avoid an hour and a half daily commute is more than enough for me. Ok – not going to lie – I do miss Breakfast Taco Fridays. But there is a taqueria not far from my home and if I really want one I can get one before I long on for the day.

    1. allathian*

      For many people, working remotely isn’t a perk but something they have to do to protect their own health or that of high-risk family members.

  43. jen*

    I get that for a lot of people getting covid is an annoyance and not a big deal. As a parent to two high risk kids I’m not working from home because I like wearing sweats – I’m working from home because most people aren’t taking basic precautions to minimize risk and my kids could get really sick if they get covid. While some people are choosing remote work because they like it better there are still a number of people who are choosing it because it’s what they need to do in order to protect the health of themselves and/or high risk family members. I think having some remote options for appreciation type perks for remote employees make sense.

    1. Claire W*

      Exactly thid! I was hospitalised when I got covid at the end of last year, I’m not going to take that risk lightly (I will still go into the office if for example the CTO is visiting and wants a meeting with me, but not just for funsies and coffee time). That doesn’t mean that I’m not working just as hard or that my work isn’t as deserving of recognition.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      This is my situation. I have high risk housemates, and my risk isn’t exactly low myself. The youngest person in my household is 60. One person is immune compromised, diabetic and clinically obese – all of which make what in other vaccinated people is “mild covid” into a life-threatening disease. As I said earlier, no cheap office pizza is worth her life.

  44. Allergic to Microsoft Teams*

    For the maternity leave question, I recommend the startlingly practical suggestion that my last Director gave to a manager when he took paternity leave: delete all the emails that popped up during that time period. Don’t even bother to read them. People will follow-up about anything important, and the rest is noise that others have handled or de-prioritized appropriately.

  45. PotsPansTeapots*

    My first thought on #1 is, do WFH employees feel secure? The message from the culture at large is that WFH is over and AAM is filled with horror stories about people feeling forced back into the office. So, do your WFH employees feel secure that there are no plans to change their roles?

    Also, while WFH is definitely a perk, it certainly doesn’t feel like it sometimes if you’re WFM to care of family, raise kids, or because you live MOFN for a partner’s job. Someone might be WFH because it’s the only way they can work, and it might help to keep that in mind.

  46. Had a Baby*

    My maternity leave I found the emails flattened pretty quickly. People realize pretty fast you are not available. I came back with way fewer emails than I imagined. Good luck!!

  47. Aardvark Lover*

    I just want to share that one year, instead of a bonus, I received a kazoo with the company’s logo. Just over a year later that company declared bankruptcy and was found to have perpetrated several billion dollars worth of fraud. I don’t know why this story reminded me of the kazoo, but there you go.

  48. Pearl*

    If the remote workers are so concerned about a free lunch, they can go work in the office that day. Sheesh. I think that is ridiculous they are barking about it.

    1. allathian*

      Depends on how much advance notice they get, some people have more fixed schedules than others and can’t decide to come in to the office with a few days’ notice. Granted, I wouldn’t make a fuss about a free lunch. But I bet that the remote employees don’t feel valued at this company, and that’s why they’re making such a fuss about the perks. Remote employees who have no intention of ever coming to the office should be able to opt out of the announcements of perks that don’t apply to them.

  49. KatEnigma*

    My husband accepted an offer to go back to his former company in early March 2020 as 100% remote as a condition of him going back, as they were desperate to get him and he made it clear we will never move back to Silicon Valley. The pinky promise when he was hired, 4 Directors ago, was that he would have to fly out “maybe once a year” Director #2 said once a quarter, #3 said no more than once a month, #4 has asked as often as every other week. So 2 weeks ago, his manager approached him and said they want to use him as a test case for the other remote workers who aren’t in State, and in lieu of the perks they offer the in office workers, asked if we would be interested in the company paying for a house cleaning service, saying he (Manager) was looking for something they could do that would benefit me too, as I am left with a 5 yr old and the household stuff when they ask him to travel so often, and acknowledged it wasn’t what he signed up for. We were gobsmacked. The cleaners come Friday.

    So #1, throw your remote workers a bone every now and again. And stop acting like there are only upsides to being a remote worker.

  50. ecnaseener*

    I will say it’s pretty disheartening to get emails about a full slate of in-person activities for Employee Appreciation Month without a single bone tossed to remote workers. That’s an extreme example, and in general I’m fine with hearing about a few things I can’t attend – but maybe not zero treats for your remote workers.

  51. DJ*

    If there are a few remote staff who live close to each other there’s no reason why they can’t gather somewhere at the same time. Agree with Alison that working remote is a perk as well and those in the office deserve other perks. They can always bring a laptop and zoom remote workers in.

  52. RedinSC*

    Email Buildup

    I took March off, and I was SO worried about the amount of email I’d come back to. I typically get around 150-200 emails a day.

    Two things, set up a rule that for any CC on emails, have that go to a CC folder so you can look at that at your leisure when you’re back. And also know that as people learn you’re out of office, the emails will slow down SIGNIFICANTLY, so you won’t have as much to go through when you’re back.

    I’ve also seen out of office messages saying, I will be out of office for [length of time] and not responding to emails. Please contact me again after [date]. And of course the other people they should talk to while you’re gone.

  53. Anaesthete*

    Speaking as someone who typically comes back to 1000+ email messages after one week of vacation, I never read or respond to all of them. I sort by sender and then reply to or otherwise address messages from leadership, my manager & his superiors, and my teams. I then perform a keyword search to surface emails related to any high-priority items in flight.

    For everything else, it is on the sender, having received my OOTO autoreply, to reach out again if they still need something from me.

  54. Pinkmocha*

    Re Maternity leave emails- take them all when you get back and archive them. Start with a clean inbox. It will reduce the anxiety of returning back to work instantly, allow you to start fresh, and allow you to search for what you need later. Returning to work post baby (at least in US) is so hard bc it’s riddled with guilt on leaving a baby so soon. At least for me.

  55. Amy*

    Another option: If you’re doing chair massages in the office, that’s time your in-office employees are not working. If the chair massages are going on for 2 hours, for example, tell the WFH staff they can choose to start working 2 hours late or end their day 2 hours early. It essentially gives them the same perk—some time to themselves—without having to send a masseuse to their homes.
    Also, the writer mentions inviting WFH staff in for these events, but does not say whether they’re all within a reasonable driving distance. I WFH and am about an hour from my office. I wouldn’t choose to drive in for lucnh or a massage, either. It’s not worth the driving time, gas, and tolls.

    1. Raida*

      An in-chair massage is usually 10-15 mins in length from what I’ve seen – the companies that offer this want to get as many people as possible done and not eat into productive time and not be long enough to put off any staff from using them.

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

    The remote staff is being goofy. I work a hybrid schedule and one of the days of the week I’ve chosen to work from home is also a day of the week when the company tends to do more fun stuff. Not once have I thought a morning in traffic was worth free ice cream or whatever else is being offered, and I’ve also not felt slighted. I’m sure I’ve made jokes like, “Oh, all the good stuff happens on my work-from-home day!” to close coworkers, but I’m not actually complaining, and if I felt that strongly about it, I could drive myself up there on those days.

    In-office perks are different from remote perks. So, either this an instance of the problem not really being the problem (ie, do your remote workers feel heard and included in the day-to-day? Are they receiving the same opportunities, praise, whatever as their in-office counterparts? If not, the office perks thing may feel like it’s just rubbing in the fact that they feel othered) or your remote workers need to understand that different positions have different perks.

  57. Raida*

    I think part of the problem is that it’s cheaper to cater food than it is give the value of a meal to each attendee
    So remote workers would be taking more of the budget per-head than in person staff (not going to look good on paper), remote workers would have significantly more choice than in person staff, remote workers could add on to what they’re buying and appear to have an ever greater food reward than in person staff.

    So the perception goes both ways – should in person staff put in extra effort and money and time on a per-person basis to give treats to people at home? Should people at home really be expecting to be posted gifts?

    Should events simply include some inexpensive online things like a cocktail making class where the attendees are buying their ingredients and going to the ones they find match their tastes? Should there be some easy to use online games, like Gartic Phone, that are entirely digital and don’t need to be tweaked for the two sets of staff be included?

    Should you have a pizza day, but it’s an inexpensive thing people cook at home so a budget of $10 per head is doable – premade pizza sauce, cheese, flatbread and whatever toppings they want, everyone preheats their ovens, assembles their pizzas and chats about it together, gets to see the results everyone had – can be fun.

    I think that “When asked, they suggest the company just offer them gift cards to restaurants when we cater lunch and gift cards to massage locations.” needs to be a balance clearly communicated to remote staff – I can get in-office massages for $15 a head, you’re not getting a $50 massage voucher. I can feed people in the office for $7 per head for lunch, I’m not giving you $30 for lunch.
    Perhaps a per-person budget for events across the year is fair, and simply once per quarter give staff the remaining balance roughly in the form of a voucher for them – requires some good attendance tracking, and would need some clear rules like “if we budgeted for you to be in the office and you missed it through nobody’s fault I’m not paying you for that disappointment.”

  58. Fiddlesticks*

    “Office people creating cliques”… aaaand this is exactly why I prefer to work from home. And no, I do not complain about not getting cupcakes. I work from home, I can make my own dang cupcakes!

  59. Calamity Janine*

    so i admit that some of the comment section here has stuck in my craw, and now that i’ve had a couple days to think about it, let me drag out my soapbox a minute –

    y’all, one person being entitled doesn’t mean that everyone who shares a similar sentiment is also entitled.

    don’t fall into this trap as an excuse for your bigotry.

    yep, i’m bringing out the b-word for this one. more specifically, not just bigotry, but ableism. allow me to be blunt: if you characterize ALL remote workers as entitled, and even if you straight-up think that working from home is a decadent indulgence that people should be thankful for because it’s all the benefit they should need… you are displaying how little you think about disabled people and very little else.

    this letter was from The Before Times, but the comments here and now certainly aren’t. we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. (two, if you count monkeypox.) take a moment and look at the list of things that make someone high risk. now keep in mind your coworkers. if your immediate kneejerk reaction is to go “well, nobody here could be on that list, they don’t look sick!”, please go inform yourself about what it looks like when someone has rhumatoid arthritis, or diabetes, or has survived cancer, or a hundred other conditions that can be well controlled and can easily allow someone to work a normal 9 to 5. guess what: they look normal. they look like normal, regular people. and this is aside from all the people who may be in perfect health themselves, but live with someone who isn’t, and have to be careful about it. think about all these people who face a very real and very present danger. think about everyone who knows that if they get covid, odds are very good that they will suffer life-long negative consequences – up to and including straight-up dying.

    these people’s continued existence is not a luxury, nor should it be spoken of as such.

    “but it’s not that baaaad, we have vaccines now!” yeah, and immunocompromised people have a compromised immune system. that means it ain’t work so good. please remember how vaccines work. you don’t have to get beyond ‘it’s something with the immune system’ to realize the issue.

    “but it’s not that baaaaad, we don’t even need mandates now!” don’t need, or simply a case of mask mandates being dropped because everyone got bored with it? now, i will grant you, maybe you do perhaps live somewhere where the vaccination rates are stellar. guess what: that is a rarity in the english-speaking world. it also varies wildly from location to location.

    (here is also a fun fact to consider with reference towards your own ableism as well: the “no masks, no vaccines” crowd has been championing eugenics and genocide of the disabled from day one. i have had several people tell me, to my very face, that since i am disabled i am dragging not just the country but the entire gene pool down and humanity would be very much better off without me – which is why it doesn’t matter if i die of covid. for many people, for entire political parties in the united states, covid being more deadly to certain groups of the disabled and sick isn’t a bad thing. it’s a GOOD thing. “culling the weak” isn’t a bug – it’s a feature. i do not use terms like “eugenics” and “genocide” lightly. *they are what is happening.*)

    “but it’s not that baaaaaaad, anyway, if someone’s at risk or living with an at risk person, they should be so thankful for having a job at all that they shouldn’t complain!” if you need a primer on why expecting the disabled to bow and scrape for the bare minimum of What Is Needed To Not Die might just be ableist, i would gently invite you to go do some basic soul searching and becoming a better person because you do not meet the minimum standard of humanity to participate in this conversation.

    “fine,” someone else may grumble. “remote work where possible is a necessity and not a luxury. but if people ask for the company to bend over backwards for these little perks, it’s not reasonable at all!”

    so. let me tell you something about being disabled.

    i didn’t plan on becoming disabled straight out of college. few people do. yet here i am, a shade over a decade later, and i have learned quite a few things about being disabled. some of them i expected. some of them i didn’t – how being disabled can be a full-time job all on its own, how people are very gleeful about telling you if they think you should die, how incredibly boring it is to be held back by illness, and… how socially isolating it is.

    the ability to have a social life is one of the first things that goes. then if things get worse, you have to choose pieces of yourself to neatly carve off, because you simply do not have the resources to keep ahold of yourself as a whole gestalt person. for me, being able to work got carved off pretty quickly. for others, they have to make other choices. like being able to talk about shared experiences in a social group, and being able to have that point of reference while bonding with groups they join *and* groups they already belong to.

    it is no guarantee that someone not physically in the office building was exempted from things like crunch hours, or handling a stressful situation, or even just being part of some major accomplishment that the business then celebrates. (if anything, one of the known downsides to working at home often mentioned is how it can become an on-call-at-all-hours affair of not being able to leave work at the door.) it’s no guarantee that someone not physically in the office building for training over lunch isn’t attending that lunchtime meeting, either!

    so to see everyone else getting the gestures of gratitude – the pizza parties during overtime, the catered sandwiches during that lunch meeting – and then not being included in that?

    yeah, that hurts. it hurts to be othered. it hurts to have your health be the thing that makes you an afterthought nobody put in time to consider. it hurts to be excluded on the basis of your disability.

    (and i’d even go as far to say that it doesn’t just hurt on the personal level – it hurts the company, also, when bigotry is lazily reinforced and ableist ideas of the disabled being second-best are rubber stamped as a matter of routine.)

    imagine sitting there as the rest of the team jokes about how they at least have a catered lunch during the meeting, and you are still having to sit there with your lean cuisine as ever. imagine everyone else talking about how overtime sucked but they get to kick loose and celebrate later… when you were also up until midnight, but you have simply been forgotten.

    you see what i mean about social exclusion? about how sometimes disability takes things from you by carving them off, painfully, inch by inch?

    “they can come to the office” is, once again, not an answer. it ends up just being a demand for the disabled to risk their lives in order to pretend they are normal. that’s just ableism. there is nothing else you can call it. disabled people must be allowed to exist, even when they don’t look “normal”, even if they inconvenience you by asking for what you consider luxuries like “a bathroom i can actually use” or “a wheelchair ramp so i don’t have to crawl up the stairs to get to work” or “the ability to follow the advice of my medical team to continue isolating from the global pandemic so that i can not be killed by it”.

    we are people.

    we are not luxury goods.

    our existence is not something that is asking for too much. our existence is not something we are whining and entitled for asking to have. our existence is not something that is up for negotiation or compromise.

    our existence is even, dare i even say it, something worth acknowledging and celebrating and *including* because we are more important than HOW MUCH YOU SPEND ON YOUR COMMUTE.

    conspicuously leaving someone out, forgetting about them, discounting them, and sidelining them… is all discrimination, y’all.

    if by some miracle somebody’s made it this far but is still spluttering at me: please take a moment to think about some other category and apply this same rule to it. let’s say, for instance, women, and things like misogyny meaning a woman is expected to bear the brunt of childcare costs in terms of time. “if she wanted to be included as a serious contender for this position, she wouldn’t have had children. she should have known that the overtime is mandatory. asking for us to accommodate her childcare’s schedule is just pure entitlement!” “but if we hire a woman, then we’ll have to spend more money on things like her own separate hotel room instead of it being just the guys! that’s too rich for our blood! nobody can do business like that!” “if she wanted to celebrate with the team, she should have just figured something out. it’s not our fault that she’s too stupid to have not gotten a babysitter so she could come out boozing after we did that big presentation. i told you this is why we should have never hired a single mother.” “honestly, what good is it to hire a woman when she’s going to get knocked up at some point and then be out for months? just don’t hire them at all.” …if we can recognize the inherent bigotry of the system that comes from the good ol’ boys club, always supported by their loving wives at home when they go to celebrate with whiskey and cigars with the boss after closing that big account, then it’s time to do that for more than just sex/gender. it’s time to also consider the disabled, and how hurtful the Good Ol’ Ablebodied club is, too.

    no, this doesn’t mean you have to give out massage gift cards in order to make up for that 15-minute massages perk you arranged. just because some people ask for unreasonable things does not make every single person in that sub-group unreasonable.

    but if you’re using something like a catered lunch to keep up morale, or even be part of the compensation, for a work event – if you’re throwing a celebratory bash to thank everyone for their hard work – and you simply don’t think about those on your team that are not currently in front of you? that’s bad management. that’s bad business. (having basic object permanence is a pretty useful skill in such a world, no matter what Boss Baby may tell you.) …that’s also bad basic human compassion, given up in favor of easy, comfortable, depressingly pervasive bigotry.

    do you treat disabled people as having the right to not die for your convenience, or don’t you?

    because quite frankly, a lot of the hot takes here about how all remote workers are so entitled (no matter if they are working remotely for Not Wishing To Die In The Pandemic reasons) are declaring loudly and proudly how they don’t think disabled people are human like THEY are, and therefore the only option they see is to come out swinging in favor of genocide and eugenics. after all, it’s not like the cripples are *real people*, right?

    if you find yourself resembling any of the above remarks, just take a moment, swallow your kneejerk defensiveness, and… do better. and no, i will not absolve you of your guilt. no, i will not listen to your whining about how it’s okay when you do it. no, i will not be your kindly mentor that drags you kicking and screaming up the path to enlightenment. you have to fix your heart – it is not my job.

    and if you find yourself struggling to care why you might find this relevant? keep in mind that unlike other oppressed classes, disability is the one that you can move into. in fact, it’s the one that EVERYONE will find themselves in. we don’t exit this earth in perfectly functioning bodies, after all. that’s how mortality works. if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll only be disabled for a few milliseconds in that fatal car crash, or only disabled for all of fifteen minutes while in your bed as you die in your sleep at a ripe old age. but this meat machine your ghost is piloting? yeah, it will break down. that is inevitable. maybe you’ll not have to experience too much of that. but it’s coming for you. absolutely, surely, and certainly.

    even if you don’t care about treating other people decently, or not being pro-genocide and pro-eugenics, or running a business with employees that actually feel properly compensated and appreciated for their work and thus ready to give you their best, or any other reason like that – care about ableism because someday, you will not be able-bodied, and you will be on the receiving end of the casual hatred you espouse. in creating the hell you seek to put me and others in, you’re making your very own prison cell. if selfishness is all you can muster? be more selfish about it.

    right, i’ll pack the soapbox away now.

    but christ almighty, some of y’all are real assholes here when it comes to the notion that maybe it’s unfair to leave someone out of the pizza party at work when their reason for not being in the office building is “i do not wish to die”. you’d think i’d have gotten the message after cheerful eugenicists bouncing up to me to tell me i should kill myself if covid won’t do the job for these past few years, but here i am, still shocked by it. if only y’all were as shocked by yourselves.

    what a way to close out disability pride month.

  60. RemoteManager*

    Ha, OP could have perfectly written about me and my team. Our HQ is in another country and we receive all the emails about their perks in-office, however we work remotely and our company does not hold an office here. We see our colleagues on-site getting gym vouchers, opticians vouchers, and free food. We don’t get any perks. Any. Many times my own time have expressed they wish they did not have to see the emails, and I feel extremely short-changed and impotent as a manager.

  61. ArtK*

    For #3, have the legal department check any contracts with the client; they may have a
    “no poaching” clause. Depending on the jurisdiction, those clauses are questionable, but they can still cause problems if the client decides to sue.

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