companies that want to bring people back on-site … but aren’t succeeding

In an effort to lure reluctant employees back to the office, some companies are offering free meals, extra swag, even financial incentives … and it’s often not working (probably because none of those things address the real reasons people don’t want to return, like safety, child care shortages, or just plain liking working from home better).

If you’re at an office that has struggled to bring people back, what are you seeing? What’s your company trying that’s worked or hasn’t worked? What would get you back, if you’re currently at home? Let’s discuss in the comment section.

{ 1,131 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I will probably write about this topic at some point and may quote from the discussion here, so if you don’t want to be quoted (anonymously, as always), please indicate that when you post. Thank you!

  2. Someone Else's Boss*

    I would need my salary to increase enough to afford to live near the office. Currently, I have to live 30 minutes away, and housing near my office is too expensive. If my salary increased, or my company helped pay for housing, I would be willing to go in. I like the office, but I don’t want to drive for an hour everyday for the opportunity to join virtual meetings with people who live out of state.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I see businesses say they want to pay remote employees less, but I’m not hearing a lot of folks say they’d pay someone willing to work in office more (this is assuming there’s a reasonable base rate of pay for comparison, which of course there isn’t in most fields). When the pandemic started, I got a dog, so having to return to the office would literally cost me a lot more per day because he’s not good being left that long. I could calculate the exact amount it would take to make me consider returning in-office.

      1. Kaiko*

        I don’t get this logic at all. They’re saving money on office spaces *and* want to pay me less? My back-of-the-envelop calculations indicate this is on-par with trickle-down economics.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Yeah, I think that this “you work from home, you get a pay cut” business is nonsense. They should pay you what you are worth.

          I also haven’t seen companies offering transit or parking perks or gas cards. Many years ago one officemate took the train to work and asked for vouchers (not uncommon in our area) in lieu of paid parking, since she didn’t drive. She only wanted the same value (and on a card, not cash). The company refused. She had another job in months.

          1. raktajino*

            The only thing I miss about working in the office was the free bus pass!

            Subsidizing the commute is a straightforward (and sometimes tax-deductible) way for offices to make a commute more palatable. It also avoids the perception of paying people more for coming in: wfh people “miss out” on a bus pass benefit as much as non-parents “miss out” on a parental leave benefit.

        2. Reluctant Manager*

          How do you figure they’re saving money on office spaces? Toilet paper and coffee, but rent isn’t a per capita cost.

          1. Wilbur*

            The only way it works is if they can downsize their office space, or avoid having to rent more office space as they expand. I could also see companies being able to get away with cramming more desks in the same amount of space, since people might not care if they’re only in a office occasionally.

            1. High Score!*

              My company downsized their space and it was a win-win. The new office space is far nicer and better utilized, it’s about a third the size so they are saving money, in a better location, they got a great price for it, employees determine when and where they’ll work, and productivity is up.
              Some of the older employees grumbled about hot desking but the office is a lot cleaner and gets cleaned nightly so it’s pleasant to work in office. I still WFH most days bc of the commute tho.

          2. John*

            While it’s true that the marginal cost of a single employee may be low, if half your workforce is working from home, you can clearly rent a much smaller space.

            1. spartanfan*

              Unless the company signed a multi year lease, which is fairly normal, it’s expensive to find and move office spaces.

              1. High Score!*

                Before our company moved, they cleaned out and closed off portions of the building to save on utilities. They tried to sublet but that didn’t pan out. So they negotiated out of their lease likely taking a bit of a hit.
                BUT even if they hadn’t been able to do that, it still doesn’t make sense to make everyone drive in every day bc you’re paying for the space. The old school BUTT IN CHAIR people are so annoying.

          3. raktajino*

            It sort of is. If you expect 100 people to be in the office every day, you’re going to pick a larger space than if you only expect 10 people to be there every day. As office space leases come up for renewal, moving to a smaller space is going to be more feasible.

          4. An Australian In London*

            Some occupancy costs are stepped not variable, but many are per capita.

            Cross-charges for utilities, cleaning, maintenance, general IT, etc., have always been per capita anywhere I was in a position to know. I’ve seen real-estate costs attributed in this way also.

            I think the point was settled in my mind when one of my clients announced that with the move to a hybrid model they were consolidating seven floors in a building to only three. While they necessarily had to upgrade some of their remote access infrastructure to handle the increase in numbers, that cannot have cost even six months of commercial rent of four floors in a prestigious financial district. If they owned the floors they were now a profit centre rather than a cost centre because they could be rented to other business tenants.

            Back of the envelope says they made their ROI on the infra cost in under 3 months and it’s pure gravy since then.

            Even if a workplace continues occupying the same space when it is only fractionally full, they will still have lower costs with a lower headcount on site.

          5. ProducerNYC*

            My last office (billion dollar company) let go of their lease on several floors in a midtown NYC bldg and doubled up on desks in existing, smaller space. Now no one has assigned seats and you have to jockey for space if you DO come in, so why would we?

          6. nnn*

            When my employer introduced the option of working from home a decade ago, 16 of the 20 people in our local office wanted to work from home full-time.

            So we went from office space that accommodates 20 desks to office space that accommodates 6 desks (4 people who want to work in the office, plus 2 hot desks for when others have to come in).

          7. Sloanicota*

            My company didn’t provide $$ to set up home offices – they offered use of their old laptops if wanted, but most ppl use their own devices, cell plans, printers, ink, office supplies etc. Obviously I realize this isn’t correct (we’re a small nonprofit – people could probably ask for reimbursement of things but we mostly don’t). They are definitely saving money.

          8. KGD*

            My company has saved a bunch of money by closing one of our two locations and moving everyone to the other. We don’t have enough offices for our staff anymore, but we are all at home 2-3 days a week anyway, so it’s easy to share.

          9. Zweisatz*

            My office avoided setting up a while new floor (including tearing down walls etc, not just rent and furniture
            ) due to work from home and the pandemic. That’s straightforward cost saving.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          One of my coworkers told me that permanent work-from-home would happen as soon as my organization succeeded in renting our office space to someone else. Unfortunately, our office is a cubicle farm from the ’70s with serious accessibility issues, so that might take a while.

          1. Goody*

            Is it just me, or does this sound like the company is actually weaponizing their lack of keeping up with modern necessities?

    2. Spargle*

      30 minutes feels like a pretty average commute. I’m not judging, just thinking – that’s been about the low side of my commute for every job I’ve had.

      If it’s not working for you then it’s not working for you! But I’d have to live within a very small radius of my office to get a shorter commute.

          1. Lizzo*

            It depends on whether there are cycling facilities (e.g. lanes, paths) available and whether you can make the trip without risking your life. Sadly, most places in the US are too car-centric for regular bike commuting to be a thing.

        1. Poppy*

          I lived one mile from one job, but it would take 20 minutes to get there with traffic and lights. I would have considered biking if it wouldn’t put my life at risk doing so.

            1. A slow poke*

              Average is 2.5 – 4mph.

              I’m short and once I hit 3.5mph I’m speed walking, my heart rate is majorly elevated, and I’m going to need a shower and 20 minutes before I stop sweating

              1. Not Australian*

                Yep, lack of showering/changing and bike storage facilities was what stopped me cycling to work many years ago. I’d rather arrive cool and comfortable and clean than red-faced, gasping and exhausted.

      1. Anonym*

        Yep, I can’t afford to live within 30 minutes commute of my office, although I think my salary is good and competitive. But it’s NYC, so that’s a known issue of living/working here.

      2. M*

        Yeah I agree, I’d say a 30 minute commute is pretty good. But I suppose it depends where you live (big city vs small town). I live a 30 minute commute door to door but I travel by train so it feels pretty easy.

        Like you say, if it’s not working for you then it’s not working for you!

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Just because it’s an average commute doesn’t make it “good.” I have one of the easier commutes for my office (about 40 minutes each way). Not doing it has given me 6 hours a week to do whatever I want. Even if they paid me for those six hours, I wouldn’t want to give them up.

          1. High Score!*

            Exactly!! I wish everyone realized it’s your life that you’re driving away with needless commutes. And what an eco-disaster. Everyone driving their cars into work, using more gas bc stuck in traffic. Even if it’s public transportation, more people=more vehicles needed. Then there’s more people using plastic plates and utensils to eat with. Bad all around.

          2. JM60*

            Some time ago, there was a study of what factors affects life happiness that can be affected by life choices, and commute ranked number 1 (IIRC)! The vlogbrothers did a video on it titled “One Scientifically Proven Thing Actually Makes People Happier”.

            1. raktajino*

              Anecdata: I live a 90 min bus trip or 20 min drive (freeway and large bridge) from my office. My work happiness was directly correlated with how I was getting there. If I bussed, I dreaded my workday but was happy at work until it was time to go home. I prefer the bus, it’s just LONG. If I carpooled or pool+bike, I was happiest. If I drove, I absolutely wanted to quit.

              I know everyone has their preferences for transportation and commute, but I know *nobody* whose preference is “sitting in traffic.”

              1. Buffy will save us*

                I have a 45-60 minute commute each way. If I took public transport (which I would still have to drive 5 minutes to) it would take over 2 hours, two trains and a bus. I’d rather drive and listen to my audiobooks & podcasts

                1. raktajino*

                  Listening to audiobooks and podcasts are the best part about a bus commute. I can’t safely do much of that when driving (a me thing, not a generalization). Plus, I can knit, read, meditate, or (most likely) just get my braindead internetting done with for the day. Honestly, I find it easier to disconnect from my phone at home when I’ve had any bus trip, because I’ve already binged.

                  4 hours rt is a LOT of commute time though. That really adds up, especially with the two transfers. My office commute was similar: when everything lined up perfectly I could make it in 60 min, but one late bus could add 20 min.

                2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  When I had a 90 minutes each way bus/train commute, I bought a Nintendo DS and whatever the newest Pokemon game was at the time. I’m lucky enough to be able to both play video games and read in the car without getting carsick, so I didn’t really mind the commute much since that’s pretty much what I’d have been doing at home anyway. (It made it hard to have any kind of social life on weeknights, though.) It probably helped that I’d had an hour each way bus commute for years in school, so it just seemed reasonable, and that I’ve mostly perfected the fine art of napping on the bus without missing my stop.

                  On the other hand, when I had a 45-60 minute each way driving commute to a different job, I couldn’t stand it within about a month. (Fortunately, I could move closer to work fairly soon after starting that job.) Just felt like wasted time and a ton of stress. I can’t listen to audiobooks very well, though – my brain just tunes them out without a visual.

                  I also tend to get magical thinking about “just five more minutes” when I’m leaving the house to drive somewhere but am very good at being to bus stops on time, which is just a my-brain thing, but adds to the stress of car commuting.

          3. Siege*

            This. My commute is even shorter, at 25 minutes to the office, 20 minutes home, and that’s still 45 minutes a day I’m not spending to go to the office to be on zoom meetings with other folks.

          4. Lex*

            Same — during lockdown when I was all WFH I got back 5 hours per week for talking long walks, making better meals and reading in the morning.

            Even now that I’m at 2 days WFH it still makes a huge difference having those 2 extra hours to exercise and plan meals.

          5. The Cowardly Katana*

            Definitely.
            For me it’s an hour each way (can sometimes be more), either in an uncomfortable bus or driving a car on busy roads. Both methods are similarly time-consuming and expensive.
            I’ve made good use of those extra 10 hours each week.
            The management have stated that they expect people to return for three days or more per week, but there is no incentive to do so, and I get less work done in the office without taking into account the time wasted in commuting.
            So far, I’ve managed to get away with one day per week.

        2. Katrine Fonsmark*

          I had a 30-minute walking commute which I actually loved! But I moved 4 hours away to a small city and built a house, so I’m very happy to be permanent remote now. I go in 3-4 times a year for a couple nights, which suits me just fine.

        3. Emma*

          Train is so different to driving, too. On the train you can read a book, phone a friend, sleep, play a game, whatever. All the same things you could do at your kitchen table on a lazy weekend morning, in fact. You don’t get any of those options if you have to drive.

      3. Generic Name*

        Same. I live in a large metro area, and I’m maybe 20 mins from my office (which is NOT in the core downtown area, but a nearby suburb city). My commute feels like a breeze compared to what I used to have.

      4. RussianInTexas*

        Same. I live in 7 miles, and 30-45 minutes was the average without any inclement weather. I work from home now, but that what it would be again, if I had to go back.
        I wouldn’t necessarily want to live close to my office, the area isn’t ideal. But no one blinks an eye to a 30 minutes commute in my area.

      5. AnotherOne*

        I’m an hour to get in, sometimes longer to get home. I mean, I live in a major city so this is all via public transit. Subway would be a little faster- save 15 minutes maybe.

        But I’m still at the point where I prefer the bus- less people.

      6. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, my work is in the middle of a major metro area, on the north side. I live in on the edge of that major metro area, on the south side. I don’t drive. A walking-and-public-transit commute takes me between 70 and 90 minutes door to door most of the time–IF public transit is operating at reasonable efficiency. And right now, the public transit of this metro area is a shitshow with major shutdowns on multiple routes (some people can probably guess now which major metro area I’m talking about). If I want to be in the office for at least 8 hours a day, that means I’m away from the house for about 10.5-11 hours a day. I would love to be at my workplace until I retire, frankly, but if they ever decreed I had to come into the office every day again, or even more than twice a week max, I think I would have to find another job. It was one thing before I have kids. Now, with a toddler? No.

            1. Notworthdyingfor*

              Yeah, also I don’t want to ride on the Boston transit system until we have a better guarantee that the train won’t CATCH ON FIRE-I mean I already don’t want to go back to the office but this REALLY seals the deal for me. Public transit is my only option and it’s just not safe.

              1. JustaTech*

                Ooh, that explains all the memes my Boston friends have been sharing.

                Honestly I really preferred my longer train commute to school compared to the days I got a (theoretically) shorter ride in – the train was more predictable and less likely to make me car sick, so I could read/do homework.

                But that was with only 4-5 catastrophic transit failures in 2 years.

              2. Poppy*

                When I lived just outside of Boston and commuted downtown (12 miles, a 20 minute drive on the weekend with no traffic) public transportation would take from 45-90 minutes. It depended whether the bus showed up, if they were on schedule SWITCHING STOP LOCATIONS across a busy intersection at a certain time and if the train was going to break down. Nightmarish. Unfortunately my employer charged over $400/month to park so I had no other option. I got in trouble once because I was late to a training when the train shut down due to a death at a station and we all had to be bussed. Apparently public transportation shutdowns were something I should predict?

                1. FionasHuman*

                  Charging your employees to park — that’s heinous. They do that at my husband’s job, too. He says that, if they ever push people to come back to the office full time, he’s going to put up signs saying: “Who else here can have a fully-remote, better-paying job within a month?”

              3. Chauncy Gardener*

                What? You don’t want to jump into the Charles to save yourself from burning?

                Honestly, why did we spend all that money on the Big Dig? We could have put train lines in the middle of 93, 128 and 495, with stations and parking garages in every exit area. But nooooooo

                1. Who Am I*

                  I have a great employer (and still WFH) but one of the few things they’ve ever done that really made me give them some side eye was to build a brand new building that purposely only has enough parking for half the employees – and they charge for it. (And this was well before the pandemic, so they weren’t counting on having fewer people in the office every day.) Not cool guys. So not cool.

                2. Hannah Lee*

                  I’m outside of Boston and commute by car along 495, 20-30 minutes each way + ?? minutes if the traffic turns. I’d much rather take public transportation, but the commute would take ~ 90-120 minutes each way. Plus I could no longer work a full day, with bus changes, the earliest I could be at work is ~ 9 am, but I’d have to leave around 3 pm to be able catch a bus
                  to transfer to another bus to transfer to the last bus to the city I
                  live in. Commuter rails along the ring road would have been a great idea. Also while they were excavating half of Boston, the north-south link would have been a good idea.

            2. penny dreadful analyzer*

              I know folks who are being asked to come in one day a week and are balking at even that, because with all the closures it’d take them like 2 hours each way on shuttle buses. Any Boston-area company that wants its people to come into the office *at all* should at least be postponing those plans until all the trains are back on line!

            3. Lex*

              Please tell me you’ve seen the ‘Charlie on the MTA’ parody song. *sings “If you’re in Back Bay and you gotta get to Malden, or from Cambridge to Jamaica Plain, hope you’ve got four wheels or a couple extra hours ‘cause you won’t get there on the train!* Signed — Fellow Orange Line sufferer

              1. Lizzo*

                I have not seen this yet but am a fan of the original and will be looking this up tout suite! Thank you!

          1. M&M*

            I also immediately flagged this as Boston! I’m starting a new job soon and have heard a lot about the orange line related headaches from my new coworkers. I guess it being shut down is better than it being literally on fire but…yikes.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          I commuted 75 miles each way when I worked in Boston and it was RIDICULOUS. So much traffic. So much gas. So many near-miss accidents. So glad I was able to move my career to WFH.

          1. Irish girl*

            I keep being called by recruiters for jobs in Boston and im like “nope” never gonna work in the city.

          2. Remote Fort*

            I commuted from Manchester, NH when I first started working in Boston – 2 hours of car to bus to train. The shortest I ever had once I moved to Brighton and Watertown was 30 mins – hour depending on the T and bus schedule. I’m sad to hear it’s gotten worse.

            DC is much much worse though… the Metro and bus situations are no where near as usable as I remember Boston being.

            1. Anonymous here*

              Pretty familiar with both the Boston T and DC’s Metro. They both suck. Multiple times I’ve given up on each of them and walked.

            2. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

              Are you me? Grew up in southern NH and spent 14 years in the DC area. Can attest to the utter ridiculousness of the DC Metro system, to the point where walking to work made a whole lot of sense… except for the DC summers.

            3. Baffled Teacher*

              Yeah I lived in Brighton 18 years ago and my bus/train commute was a nightmare, but at least nothing caught fire at the time

              1. I would prefer not to*

                I find it hard to separate out home working and flexible working from all the other things I love about my job. I wouldn’t leave if home working was stopped, necessarily. However, the fact that they’d scrapped it would make it a very different sort of workplace, and suggest other things I love about the job might also change.

                I have a brilliant boss who trusts me, gives clear direction and feedback but doesn’t micromanage, encourages us to look after our wellbeing and avoid burnout, but never oversteps or gets condescending, shares out work fairly, and evaluates us based on outcomes.

                Within that context, we are all encouraged to come into the office roughly 2 days a week or 8 days a month. In our team, we aren’t monitored (but there’s an electronic sign in system so the organisation does have a record).

                In our team, we have a day that we all agree to be in. We all understand that people have different and changing preferences. For instance, people understood during a recent local Covid spike that I wanted to home work for that period, as my partner is clinically vulnerable.

                It works really well.

                But if the leadership was different I’d feel completely different. If I felt cajoled into the office because someone didn’t trust me and wanted to peer over my shoulder while I make a big show of flapping around, complaining about how busy and stressed I am (as I’ve seen in other jobs), I’d seriously resent it.

                Similarly, if I felt that when I go in, I’m picking up slack for people who aren’t working responsibly at home, I’d resent it.

                In an outcomes-driven, well run organisation, the flexible model works well. But if any of those elements slip, I’d understand a need to have people in the office, and/or people wanting to be home every day.

        2. I Speak for the Trees*

          Howdy, neighbor! (Maybe literally a I am on the south side, too). I feel you on this. I have been working at a suburban office location while supporting a Back Bay location, but now they want me to sit in the office. My 11 minute drive will become over an hour IF the train is running on time (and doesn’t catch fire or catch my arm in the door, etc,)

        3. Staja*

          Oh yeah…I had that commute for years until I got my license and moved to NH. Lots and lots of reading, but always the fear I’d miss a bus/train transfer or be late for work again. And then once I could drive and realized it was a 20 minute ride…via Storrow and then a quick navigation through downtown – with a $16 parking fee at the end? I still usually took the train!

        4. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

          I am also in Boston-metro (south shore), and I don’t drive. Public transportation, which I took for decades, is about 1 hour 45 minutes one way (on a good day). I am so done with that. Never again.

      7. Canadian Librarian #72*

        Yeah, my commute is 1.25 hours each way. Fortunately I only have to go in twice a week, or I’d never do it.

        Thirty minutes each way sounds great to me, and is very normal where I live; frankly I would be surprised to hear someone complain about it. That said, certainly the shorter the better where commutes are concerned.

        I’ve read that studies indicate a commute with a one-way duration of 45 minutes or longer is proven to have negative health impacts.

        1. Alex*

          I think 30 minutes used to be a sweet spot for many as a benchmark – but with wfh being so common in the last few years, 30 minutes suddenly sounds quite bad if you have the “zero minutes” option. And also the factor that you don’t have to pay for transit/gas for that trip.

      8. itsame*

        I had a miserable commute at an old job. I ended up driving to work at 6am to avoid traffic so I could keep it under an hour in the car each way. About a months before I left that job, they opened a second office a 30 minute bus ride from my home, which comparably felt extremely easy. Once I’d left for a fully remote role I realized that even that “easy” commute was taking up 5 hours of my life every week. At this point, I never want to go back to an office again if I don’t have to.

      9. Boof*

        I’m 30 min away and I’d still usually rather have that 1hr of life back esp when i’m often too busy to have time to sleep, exercise, or really do anything fun for myself*
        * sometimes the drive is pleasant and my only vague r&r time but by and large right now I minimize the back and forth and am glad to have that flexibility in the post pandemic zoom boom

      10. MacArthur Park*

        Sure, but if you’re working from home, and then you have to start driving 30 minutes each way every day, it’s basically a 12% pay cut for the amount of time you spend making your work day happen overall. More if you count that you have to spend time making yourself presentable before you go and get the subway off you when you get back. You wouldn’t want to do an extra 60-90 minutes of work a day for free, right?

      11. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I have never accepted more than 40 minutes, and 40 minutes was only acceptable because I didn’t have to change on the metro, and was almost guaranteed a seat both ways. That way I got to read for over an hour without feeling guilty that I should be cleaning something.
        I live within 20 min of central Paris so there are plenty of jobs to be had within my 40-min radius, but then again, we paid a lot of money for a house that was within walking distance of a metro station, rather than buying a much cheaper and bigger house further out.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I like the office, but I don’t want to drive for an hour everyday for the opportunity to join virtual meetings with people who live out of state.

      Completely agree. When my office was doing voluntary hybrid, I went in when I had meetings because I prefer to meet in a conference room (masked) to a virtual meeting. But if I knew a meeting was going to be virtual (with someone who was still 100% WFH, with someone in another state/country) I stayed home because I prefer a virtual meeting from my home to a virtual meeting from my cubicle.

      1. Aarti*

        30 minutes is my commute right now and it is the longest I have ever had! this is extremely region dependent. 45 minutes to go 4 miles is INSANE – I’d almost rather bike. It’s why I won’t live in a large city!

    4. Mabelline*

      This. I live in an area where housing is very “neighborhood” dependent. A place within a few miles of my office would cost 2-3x where I currently live, which is 10 miles away from the office. Commuting has gotten insanely expensive and my area does not have transit. I currently can’t afford to commute to the office regularly OR live closer to the office. My employer needs to make one of those options feasible before they require daily in-office attendance.

    5. HailRobonia*

      I’m in a similar situation – I work remotely 3 days a week, in the office 2 days a week, and my commute is typically over an hour. My rent is substantial and I will likely need to move even further away to find affordable housing.

    6. Pool Lounger*

      This is huge. My partner’s office options are all in the most expensive cities in the USA. We’d never be able to buy a house or go on vacation if we lived in one of those places. They’d have pay enough to live just as comfortably in NYC/LA/Seattle/Austin/DC/etc as in small-city south, NE, and midwest. Which they will never do. Which is actually fine, as long as they keep wfh happening. Wfh is working great, and in a huge company where people on one team may be in different countries let alone different states, wfh just makes sense.

      1. Emma*

        Mine is 20 minutes by bike and that would be the same for anywhere in the city centre for me. But by bike it’s enjoyable; I totally get why the previous commenter wouldn’t want to sit in a car for 30 minutes each way every day. Of course, lots of people are stuck with much longer commutes, but just because it’s common doesn’t mean we have to like it!

      2. Starbuck*

        For me that would be the longest commute I’ve ever had, and where I live it would mean driving about 25 miles away.

    7. Engineer 1.0*

      My office moved to a huge fancy suburban office park after being located in a compact downtown with bus, train and car access. Making a 45 minute drive every day does not compel me to come in, and they’ve been complaining a lot about being able to hire people in my demographic (20s, various minorities in engineering) — but no one in my demographic can afford or desire the enormous McMansions near work, and that drive isn’t desireable either.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I’m in a similar boat. My company is consolidating to one office in a pretty remote business park twice as far from me as my current office (which is already 45 minute drive away). I understand why the company made the decision, but a lot of us are switching to 90% remote because of it.

      2. Katrine Fonsmark*

        I feel like a few years before the pandemic, a lot of big companies in Chicago were doing the exact opposite move (suburban office park to downtown) for that very reason – to attract young people who had no interest in working/living/driving in the suburbs. McDonald’s and Walgreens and others I can’t remember.

    8. Flash Packet*

      Same. I would need a salary increase that not only compensated me for my one-hour-each-way commute but also paid for a pet sitter and an in-home elder-care aide. A lot of things changed in my life during the pandemic.

      And it would be a bad deal for the company because I get maybe 50% of the same work done at the office compared to at home.

      So they’d pay more, get less, *and* I would still be unhappy because of the lack of work/life balance.

      And I’d probably go back to needing a sick day once a month because I have an autoimmune disorder that flares up under stress (either mental or physical, like lack of sleep because of what I have to do to be in the office 5 days a week).

      Letting me WFH as much as I am now is a win-win situation all around.

      1. Majnoona*

        My reason is different. I live with someone immunocompromised and just didn’t want to be around sick people. Also I got pretty comfortable working remotely.

    9. Student*

      “I like the office, but I don’t want to drive for an hour everyday for the opportunity to join virtual meetings with people who live out of state.”

      This is so right. I just can’t picture my office successfully moving back to in-person meetings, given how much has changed.

    10. The Person from the Resume*

      But if you didn’t move and the company didn’t move, it’s the same situation as before COVID. Is it an I refuse to go back to the way it used to be situation.

      1. Alex*

        Yes, because the current “new normal” is a vast improvement over “how it has been”. If you have been poor, and now are making a steady income, going back to being poor is not “I refuse to go back to the way it used to be” situation, it just is not wanting to worsen your own situation (again).

        The old “normal” is simply not good enough anymore. Times change.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I have moved but if I hadn’t, the other thing that’s changed for me is that I had a baby. I literally couldn’t commute to the office (45 to 60 minutes each way) and work the same hours because there is no childcare available for that length of time. Of course now I’m 250 miles away and contractually full time remote so it isn’t an issue.

        Sometimes yes, it is a case of refusing to go back. Once it’s been shown that a better way is possible, going back is harder than it would have been to just stay the same.

    11. CatMintCat*

      My commute, when I lived near Sydney (no normal person can afford to live IN Sydney, even the outer suburbs these days), was a minimum two hours. 40 minutes in the car to get to a train station, then a bit over an hour on the train, and a fifteen minute walk to the office in the city. Reverse it to get home.

      Now that I’ve re-located to the bush, I look back and don’t know how I survived it. My current commute is 20 minutes on country roads, with the occasional kangaroo or emu as the only hazard.

    12. Stunner266*

      This same comment keeps appearing. How is it that this wasn’t an issue for you before covid, but it is now?

      1. Robots*

        Because commuting to work was simply the accepted standard. For a lot of workplaces, the office was where work happened, and you and everyone else had to get there, it was just a given.

        It’s taken the disruption of a pandemic and the introduction of remote working systems for many to realise that they don’t actually need to go into an office five days a week to get their work done. Even an employee that previously had a 30 minute, pleasant commute will have lived a year or two of having an extra hour to themselves every day, and the saved cost of gas/transport – not easy to give that up once you’ve tasted it.

    13. amethyst*

      Oh that’s the other thing I forgot to say in my comment! I also live about 20-30 min from the office – which is fine for me; I don’t mind driving that everyday in general. But I also think to myself – why drive into work when I’m going to sit in my office and be on video calls all day long? I can do the same thing without the commute.

    14. I would prefer not to*

      Shows how context matters! I live and work in London, and a 30 minute commute sounds blissful to me…

  3. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Another question — if you’re taking a hard line right now about not going back, how much of your stance is based on the current job market/your sense that you have other remote options if your employer tries to require you to return? If the job market were to dramatically change, would that affect your position and what feels realistic to you?

    1. Jane Bingley*

      I have a remarkably great job – a truly wonderful boss, an incredible team of colleagues, work I genuinely love doing. But key to that is also the fact that I work from home. I know my boss and colleagues would annoy me more if I had to see them every day. As an EA, my job tasks would change if I was in an office (more in-person meeting planning, ordering lunches, and general office maintenance). So my wonderful job would be substantially less wonderful if I went into an office, not just because I’d lose work from home, but because I’d lose other things I love about it, too.

      My job is still great enough that I’d probably stick around. I know I’ve found a bit of a unicorn. But I’d have a job search on the side, something I have zero interest in doing right now.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agree, I’ve landed in a not-great, perma-remote job right now. I’m really looking for a better job, but the fact that I’m already FT remote means the new potential job has to compete with that, or else I’ll just keep looking. At this point, I’m willing to stick with my not-great remote job over having to return to the office more than one or two days a week.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      An interesting angle! I think if my particular industry suddenly changed back to ‘you cannot work from home ever’ and there were fewer jobs available offering it I’d probably change my stance. I’d complain a lot, but I’d weigh up need for salary Vs need for not commuting everyday.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I work in tech, and I don’t think we’re ever going back to full time in the office. The field is too in-demand, so it just won’t be competitive. Particularly because WFH has increased productivity in many offices; turns out it’s easier to concentrate when not overhearing your coworkers’ conversations or being interrupted every 10 minutes.

        I have made the choice between high salary/high COL/long commute and lower salary/lower COL/shorter commute before, so I know I’d take a less lucrative job for a 0 minute commute.

        1. amethyst*

          Yeah, I was thinking the same. I work in tech and I don’t see us ever going back to full-time in the office the same way we were before. It was already hard enough to justify the requirement to be in person in my field; most people just did it because of inertia. But now that we’ve all worked from home for two years and not only didn’t fail but did *better,* it’s really hard for leadership to try to justify why we should be back.

    3. triplehiccup*

      My sister is currently job hunting after 2+ years not working, and I see her making this calculation – she’s hurrying to accept lower pay just because it’s remote, and she sees the job market cooling down. Furthermore, I think this is part of why the Fed is cranking up interest rates even though there’s no evidence that too-low interest rates are causing current inflation. I feel very comfortable assuming that Jerome Powell would love to see workers lose power in the job market.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Pretty sure he has explicitly said that lower wages and higher unemployment is the correct balance?

        (That said, it is the nature of economic stuff to expand and contract.)

        1. Sloanicota*

          I’m not an economist but my sense is that inflation seems to hurt the rich and powerful – while stagnant wages and high unemployment benefit them :( Therefore the full force of our government is going to preventing inflation

          1. Spearmint*

            I don’t want to get too much into this politics here, but all I’ll say is many/most progressive economists think inflation is bad for ordinary people, and when you look at polling working class people consistently cite inflation as one their top issues.

          2. somanyquestions*

            Inflation hits lower income people much harder, as a higher % of their spending is for necessary goods and housing.

            1. Ubergaladababa*

              Yes, inflation is much, much harder on someone who is already living paycheck to paycheck than someone with some give in their budget, let alone someone who doesn’t need to have a budget.

              And it’s not that too-low interest rates are causing inflation, it’s that raising interest rates is one of the few/best tools we have for fighting inflation. It lowers the amount of money in the economy, cools demand, and it signals that inflation won’t last forever, helping the economy escape a cycle where demand is artificially high because people assume they need to buy xyz right now before it gets too expensive

              1. Sloanicota*

                OK I’m very ignorant and truly interested in learning here, but – surely unemployment is *even harder* on that person living paycheck to paycheck? Since they now lose their paycheck and can’t get a new job? Where as the wealthy live off their investments, not wages. No?

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Lots of wealthy people live mostly off their high salaries.

                  Unemployment is worse for those who don’t have several months’ salary in savings or accessible investments as a cushion.
                  Stagnant wages are worse for those who are already low paid.
                  Inflation is worse for those with no wiggle room in their budget.

                  Basically all storms are worse if you are poor.

                2. amateur econobot*

                  I don’t think this is an ignorant question. Yes, raising the unemployment rate is bad for the same people most impacted by inflation; it not only puts people out of work but also decreases worker power relative to employers, so people who still have jobs lose the ability to negotiate for better pay and working conditions.

                  Raising interest rates/increasing unemployment is also not the only possible tool for addressing inflation; price controls and subsidies, for example, would address rising prices much more directly by limiting how much companies can charge for necessities and/or helping people pay the higher prices (probably both since you don’t want to just subsidize ever-increasing price hikes). Even in the US, we do this in limited circumstances already; price-gouging during disasters or emergencies is illegal in most states, for example.

                  In addition, if the inflation isn’t caused by too much demand, raising interest rates may not help. The traditional idea of inflation as “rising wages/rising prices = more demand = more rising wages/rising prices = more demand” is only one possible scenario, and it may not be the one we’re dealing with now. There are global shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the economic sanctions against Russia because of their invasion of Ukraine; it’s entirely possible that the problem isn’t increased demand but lack of supply, which wouldn’t be helped by putting people out of work.

                  TL;DR: Increasing interest rates hurts regular people and it isn’t the only possible way to fight inflation. I Am Not An Economist.

                3. ShanShan*

                  The tradeoff is that inflation shrinks debt.

                  So, the general wisdom is that inflation is bad for people with savings and good for people with debt.

                  Obviously, this is more of a long-term view than the day-to-day grocery bill.

                4. Ubergaladababa*

                  The other comments are certainly correct that problems in the economy are pretty much always worse for the poor than the rich. But it’s also the case that pretty much every poor person is hurt by inflation, while high unemployment tends to directly affect fewer people (although the points about decreased bargaining power are well taken.

    4. Wats*

      It’s less the job market than the industry. I work in tech, so I’m not worried about finding remote jobs. They were always more likely to be remote, now even more so.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Youngest just finished a hybrid tech internship, and his priorities on a job for a year from now are that it have a good work-life balance and be fully remote.

      2. AsPerElaine*

        Same.

        My hard line is currently about safety. Even if the market were to get MUCH worse, I have enough financial cushion that I could take the time to spend six months looking for a job, if I needed to. I like this job, and I’d be sorry to leave it, but I cannot off the top of my head think of anything that would currently induce me to go back to a giant petri dish with 50 or 60 other people, many of whom are not masking. (If I had NO other options, maybe. But by the time I had no other options I wouldn’t have this job anymore.) And doubly so in winter, when I’d be taking my lunches outside in sub-freezing and sometimes sub-zero weather.

        I have skills that are needed, whether or not the market is hot, and skills that are transferable, even if my particular niche somehow went utterly belly-up (and if we don’t need computers anymore, going back to the office will be the least of my problems). I have enough privilege and resources that there are a lot of other things I could change before I had no choice to accept an in-office job in the current pandemic situation.

        (And, unfortunately, nothing I have seen indicates that we’re likely to get the pandemic situation under control to an extent that would alleviate my concerns any time soon. Which is too bad, because I do have value for not-fully-remote.)

        1. Majnoona*

          Same with me. The pandemic is over! No masks! Yet a week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear of someone testing positive. Forcing us back into the classroom (university) was a big factor for me.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Our delivery people are getting a LOT more notes about dropping off the food, ringing the doorbell and leaving because the orderer has COVID since masking requirements withered away.

          2. academic fibro warrior*

            Me too! And I can’t even say the word masks and was not able to decided when I was sick and needed to teach from home. By the time the paperwork processed I wouldn’t be sick anymore! Naturally I had students end up in the ICU.

            So when I was offered a position at a private university that requires vaccinations, indoor masking, testing, and is still 80% hybrid (and pays better than the state school) I jumped. Now I do not mind teaching in person. Also I get to excuse my students for skipping for being under the weather and I’m notified of COVID exposure right away.

            If I hadn’t had this opportunity I would have stayed working my online only part time education adjacent jobs. I’ve had COVID twice and had long COVID twice in the last 2.5 years. Oh but I’m not at any risk at all! If an institution doesn’t value my health, I don’t value them.

      3. Anony*

        It is because of WFH that I’m able to work at all. I love saving the commute time and expense. I like that I can take my lunch to do things like dishes, laundry, tend to our animals, etc. so I don’t feel like I’m drowning with a poor work life balance. Now when I’m off work for the day I can also relax more with my husband and pursue projects of our own because I don’t have a mountain of non-work tasks waiting for me. If WFH went away I wouldn’t even consider a commute more than 20 minutes anymore and I would only agree to work part time. I’m thankful my husband has created a life where I choose to work, not have to work and I know that’s not the case for a lot of people. But the amount of misery associated with the office just isn’t worth it. There was so much time wasted in idle chit chat, commuting, group lunches, etc. that people like me who just want to show up, do their job and leave really struggled.

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My job which is health and social services adjacent has started to go more and more remote friendly. Part of it is because most of the field grant funded, so cutting out commercial rent for everything except the services that must be delivered on-site makes you very attractive to donor. Another part of it is because it is heavily female and rapidly diversifying, so we have more people with caretaking responsibilities, without access to family wealth, and with disabilities that makes WFH or remote appealing. It is also really, really, really nice to have staff available during the workday in the communities we serve. That way they more can easily go to our community stakeholders, rather than asking the stakeholders to come to us. This is a huge benefit that I can’t see any organization giving up. Being able to meet our stakeholders quite literally where they were at in the beginning of the pandemic was huge and I can’t see us going back to the old way of making them come to us.

    5. Beans*

      I am permaremote. At this point, the only thing that would get me to work in an office full-time would be if I had literally no other options, burned though the last penny of my savings, and my spouse had also lost his job and couldn’t float us.

      The freedom, the flexibility, the ability to be myself and not have to maintain a fake Corporate Persona – I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I’m great at my job. But I don’t care about the career ladder or networking or in-person abilities. I just want to get paid. I don’t think I’m alone in this mindset!

      1. NewJobNewGal*

        I was thinking about the “fake Corporate Persona” aspect! When I work in the office, I have to be ‘on’ all the time. I’m a woman in tech, so every encounter is a game of “How do they want me to react? Are they judging me?”
        I get to be ME when I work from home. I don’t need to worry if I have RBFace every second of the day. No one sees what I’m wearing. No one judges my processes or my work methods. My work speaks for me. This is Freedom!

        1. Calaghan*

          These two comments are everything. I left formal employment in 2016 for exactly the reasons you two mention here – it was taking such a toll on my mental health, that went I started *centering* my mental health, I found that a full, healthy, honest life was just absolutely incompatible with “being on” in an office for a living.

          I took a year off, started a business, and pieced together the rest of my financials with freelance work. It wasn’t super fun or easy, but it was at home, among friends, and the day belonged to me. It was freedom. I stopped having this “shrink away” reaction to people that I had developed under the glare of office strip lighting.

          Reading your comments though gives me euphoria, and has me wondering whether, under the new WFH conditions, I might be able to return to that steady paycheck (literally the only thing I miss, ha – but really not something to sneer at).

          On the other hand, I don’t know how I’d explain a 6 year gap of “Oh I’ve been doing this and that, whatever it takes to pay the bills really, because in-office corporate life was SOUL CRUSHINGLY DREADFUL but I see *you guys* have WFH” – lmaoo, I’ll have to figure out a better way sell that.

          1. Esprit de l'escalier*

            You could say, I always wanted to run my own business so I took the plunge, but eventually I wanted to shift to a combination of working from home part of the time while also having a more team-oriented working environment part of the time [note, this doesn’t have to be true! and you’d have to be applying for something advertised as hybrid] so I started applying for positions like this one with a hybrid situation.

            Once you were back in the standard job world you could try to make it, or move to, a more WFH position if that’s possible in your industry.

            1. Calaghan*

              Oh gosh, hybrid work would be a non-starter. I wouldn’t be willing to work in an office again, even one day a week, even for part of a day. There’s no amount money or benefits that can replace the mental health benefits of WFH.

              (I’m specifically including this comment to join the rest of the chorus, because the article is kind of asking the question, What would bring you back to the office. My answer is literally nothing. Threat of death, maybe.)

          2. SaltedChocolateChip*

            I would think you can totally sell it — as a freelancer you’re your own business so if you’ve been making it work this long, you’ve clearly built a network (and are good at selling your services!) and have happy clients to use as references and a portfolio of some kind to point to. It will all be in the framing and you probably need to divvy the work into different buckets that get highlighted or cut depending on the job, but there’s definitely a way to do it.

            And you can simply say “I’ve enjoyed freelance work but am excited to work as part of an organization again, especially one that [insert reason you’re giving for applying that particular place].”

          3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            It’s all in the story. I went out on my own and have really enjoyed many aspects of it but miss (being plugged in to the industry / rapid learning I experienced with a team / stability).

            I did this, so I’ve been through it. What’s weird is that many, many people will assume of course you want to return to an FTE because they believe it must be a terrible grind to work for yourself. Others will be very skeptical of anyone coming back in, believing that you will never be happy taking orders from anyone else ever again.

        2. Moon hopping*

          This so big for me. one example I had a boss that I went on the same MLM diet as her (pressured to because they felt it would give me more energy and therefore make me more productive) when I went off because I was pregnant I got many vailed comments about what I was eating. And I was under Drs orders to gain weight . I can only imagine the freedom to eat when and what you want at home could do for some who has been fat shamed feels like.

        3. She of Many Hats*

          The other side of Being On all day at work, especially if you are not a full-fledged extrovert is having anything left for those you care about outside of work: Friends, Spouses, Children – especially children….

          That’s why I had to leave retail, which I enjoy and am good at. I’d get home and I would not have patience and energy and attention available for my spouse and early-elementary aged child. That’s not including household management tasks either. Corporate work was enough lower a level of Being On that I could be Present at home and the pandemic WFH era showed me how much more Present I could be for my now teenager. It’s that flexibility and connection outside of work that I’m missing now that I’m on-site daily.

          1. amethyst*

            oh this cannot be understated. Working from home I have so much more energy for my husband and for my hobbies and life than I did when I was at the office. I used to come home every day beat and could barely get it together to cook dinner. Now I feel like I am really living my life!

        4. Not Today*

          We are back in office three days a week. I find that by the third day I am EXHAUSTED from being “on” three days in a row. Like just physically and mentally WIPED OUT and done. I dont know how we did it before….

          1. Teapot Wrangler*

            Ouch – three days in the office is bad but three days in a row is untenable! I’d be absolutely wrecked!!!

      2. Anony*

        You are not alone! I agree with every single word of this. I would have to be in a very desperate situation with my household to go back to office.

      3. lilsheba*

        I agree with every point you made! I’m also perma remote for which I am grateful. I don’t ever want to work in an office again. I save so much money now, and time! To me the time was always the most important.

      4. MacArthur Park*

        1000%. My job involves talking to strangers about 50% of the time, and I have to be at like level 11 politeness and professionalism during that time, even though they are often extremely difficult. If I am not able to roll my eyes and sigh heavily and eat a straight block of cheese during the other 50% of the time, that level 11 is not gonna happen. Either I’m going to end up cursing someone out or my head is going to explode. I don’t know how anyone did this job in an office. But at home, I do a really, really good job at it.

    6. NewJobNewGal*

      I joined my last company at the beginning of Covid and worked remote for two years. Then they wanted us to come back into the office, or in my case, start working in the office for the first time. I just found a new job where I could be remote.

      My main problems with working in that office were:
      1. My entire team was out of state. I would be going into the office just to chat with my team on zoom. This really grated on me. Executives wanted people in the office so they could look at them, it had nothing to do with productivity.
      2. Of the few people I spoke to who worked locally, a few of them were jerks. Major, sexist jerks. It turned my stomach thinking of being in an office with them.

      If things were different and it wasn’t so easy to find a new job, I would have still looked for a new job locally. Going back into that office was the straw that broke the camel. There were so many issues with my last job that going back to the office brought them all together and made me realize I didn’t want to work there. Working from home was the only thing keeping me in that job.

    7. Christi P*

      We are currently back in the office two days a week. I’ve taken a pretty hard stance with my boss that I WILL NOT come in more frequently than that, so if it comes to that let me know so I can make other employment arrangements. I’m not sure if I’m bluffing :). I have political capital that I’m willing to use on this, and if push comes to shove I could find something fully remote if I need to. If the market were to change drastically my stance might change, but I would probably be willing to push the issue, i.e. not come in more until it resulted in a negative impact to my performance review/bonus, etc.

      1. Lizzie*

        We are back however many days each department’s management deems it “necessary” in my case, its two days. I’m fine with that. I have a relatively short commute, but I still prefer my WFH days, although I have come to realize that I do need to come in for my own sanity.
        We JUST were notified by management that it will be three days shortly, at least that’s what will be expected of us. I am not looking forward to that, but will do it if necessary.
        Like coming back 2 days, it will be an adjustment. But leaving isn’t an option; pay and benefits are too good to give up.

        there also is some wiggle room, if you take a couiple of days off, in a week, i don’t think you will be expected to come in the other 3, at least not by MY bosses.

    8. Anonym*

      I’m taking a hard line (max 1 day in office) based not on the current job market moment, but the fact that I’m mid-career and at a mid-senior level in a fairly flexible field that offers a lot of pathways (communications). I think even if the job market drops back to more of a mid-point where candidates have less power than they do now, I expect to still have reasonable options, though I might have to begrudgingly accept a lower salary.

      And it’s not just a logistical calculation of what I can get that works best for me, but a matter of principle. Whatever skill and value I have to contribute, I want it to go toward decent, forward thinking employers. I’m a good employee who works hard and leaves things better than I found them. I don’t want to reward a bad employer with what I have to offer.

      My company is currently insisting on people coming in 3x/week, but I’m hoping that will pass. I’m currently working remote while dealing with health issues, and will go on maternity leave in a few months. If they’re still insisting on 3x/wk in office when I get back, I will be job hunting. (Reluctantly, because I actually like the company, but this is way too important for my quality of life to compromise on anymore.)

    9. WorkerBee (Germany)*

      It is reality for me now. We are required to return full time. It sucks big time. It is the only downside to my current job, as I also otherwise have a great direct boss, team and subordinates, pay is good and the job itself is good. Happy all around except for the return to office policy with no exception.
      But to my own surprise I’m not actively searching. I was sure I would if we ever had to return.
      I’m not searching due to the looming recession and the fact that my employer is doing super well and my job is very secure (almost impossible to get rid of me) plus all of the above mentioned upsides. And the tiny bit of hope that we can get corporate US to see the light and realize they will loose people over this or at least what already is happening: not finding replacements and new hires.

    10. nnn*

      My job involves sitting quietly at a computer and focusing on what’s on the screen in front of me, so there’s nothing gained by doing it in an office, and it’s actually a lot harder to do this kind of work where there are other people around.

      I’ve been working remotely for 10 years, since long before the pandemic, so I have extensive empirical evidence that my job can be done remotely.

      Many people in my field are freelancers. I don’t want to freelance, but I’d certainly give it a try freelancing from home rather than working a staff position in an office.

      If the job market in my industry changed so much that I couldn’t get work in a work-from-home position, I’d look at retraining for a new job before I’d look at going into the office.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        If the job market in my industry changed so much that I couldn’t get work in a work-from-home position, I’d look at retraining for a new job before I’d look at going into the office.

        Same. Fortunately, this isn’t something I have to worry about anytime soon. My company is in tech and has always had at least a third of its workforce fully remote, and I was hired long before the pandemic as a permanent virtual employee, so I can rest easy for awhile.

    11. Mauvais santé*

      My hard line is due to health. I was already sickly prior to the pandemic, then caught covid, and my health issues got worse. Working from home (specifically in the role I have) means I can get work done while dealing with a bad health day. Of which there are many. Before remote, I’d be calling out all the time.

      I have the credentials and experience for a different, higher-paying industry with interesting work. However, they mostly want hybrid while hinting they plan to slowly go full office. Still not worth more than being able to work from my sickbed. If this job fell through, I would look hard for one identical to it.

      1. Anonymous here*

        I’m pushing back on going into the office for health-related issues, and I’m definitely looking for remote positions outside my current employer (not only because of the in-office push). I’m looking into FMLA and ADA accommodations as other options in case the job market drastically changes and I have to stay with my current employer.

      2. Alice*

        Yes, I’m disabled and being able to work entirely remotely is a game changer for me. Even assuming I never caught a bug at the office, spending my energy commuting and lugging my laptop to and fro and around the office was really taking its toll on me. I’m sure if I were to go back to the office I’d have to substantially cut my hours to make up for the extra effort and my sick time would increase.

        1. lilsheba*

          Same here, I’m becoming more and more disabled as time goes on, and the commute I was able to do years ago isn’t true now. I don’t have the energy or stamina to get dressed and commute, and fix my lunch to take with and all that nonsense. I have enough to get out of bed, make coffee, make food and go sit at my computer at home and work. That’s it.

    12. RussianInTexas*

      I can’t afford to take a hard line, so I am lucky my employer just sort of forgot about the whole thing. If they call me in, I will go in.
      I am looking for a different job, and WFH/office will come in to the consideration among other things.

    13. Smitty*

      I was working hybrid remote pre-pandemic. As much as the current job market obviously makes it easier to take a firm stance on remote-work, I have always and will always make that a top priority in my decision-making.

      Many people have children and elderly family members that they are able to spend more time with because of the flexibility afforded by remote work. For me, I take a hardline because as much as I love the work that I do, my job is not the most important thing in my life. What is invaluable to me about remote work is having the ability to travel occasionally and work from my brother’s house in DC one week, having the ability to work from 5 to 1 one day so that I can spend my afternoon with family who is visiting, or going to my local shelter at lunch to walk dogs.

      Remote work allows me to enjoy the parts of my life that I value most. As a result, I find that I am less burnt out and generally happier when I am working.

    14. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Another question — if you’re taking a hard line right now about not going back, how much of your stance is based on the current job market/your sense that you have other remote options if your employer tries to require you to return?

      With my current employer, my supervisors over the years have all agreed, to a soul, that I’m more productive offsite. I’m also over 8 hours from the nearest office, so they’ve been disinterested in bringing me on site for less than a week at a time (excepting exceptional circumstances, which have arisen only once in my tenure so far). It’s no so much a hardline stance as it is a mutual understanding that being onsite makes no sense whatsoever for me 51+ weeks out of the normal year.

      For a new employer, though, I’ve been remote for roughly the last dozen years, and my sense is that my job security is above-average, so I’m sure that’s figuring in strongly in my hardline stance on that front. You’d have to offer me a significantly better overall Quality of Life package to get me to jump ship, and the baseline includes long-term, indefinite remote work.

      If the job market were to dramatically change, would that affect your position and what feels realistic to you?

      If the job market got tight and I were to need a new position (i.e. my current job/employer were no more), I’d probably concede remoteness on a temporary basis. I’m simply not in a position to retire early, even temporarily. I wouldn’t consider a new job a long-term fit until I were working remotely–either by proving myself onsite and returning to remote work or by leaving that job for another that offered remote work. I’d see it similarly to an employer that did not offer health insurance benefits or gatekept them behind a significant trial/probation period.

    15. Seriously?*

      I was a teacher. Left for a new business degree. I had several interviews for remote work (2 that were not advertised as such) but getting entry level in a new field over 50 = tough. I start a new job next week but I have to go in. Once trained I will be visiting multiple worksites and can do some of the office work from home. Plan is to mask, do this job for a year, and then maybe try again for remote work.

      1. irianamistifi*

        Congrats on making the switch! It’s very hard to start a new field, but with an MBA, you’ll definitely move up fast. I’d recommend trying to find a new role every 18 months to 2 years in order to increase your salary as quickly as possible (or work at a hedge fund where they like to throw money around).

    16. K*

      (Please do not quote!) For medical reasons, working on site in person is not healthy for me. I worked in person for several years, with a physical disability and a chronic disease that made commuting, being in an office, etc. draining and frequently painful. I didn’t know I could ever have the option to work remotely, especially early in my career. When the pandemic began, I was allowed to work from home only due to the aforementioned chronic disease, controlled by medication that drastically lowers my immune response. Even just my day to day life improved so much! I wasn’t getting sick all the time, the physical disability wasn’t being constantly aggravated, and I had a lot more energy. Due to the politics of the pandemic, I was called back to the office in 2021 and told absolutely no accommodations would be made for me. I frequently missed several days of work at a time due to severe illnesses, only my immediate team would wear a mask around me, and the previous issues I had working in person came right back. I started job hunting.

      I was luckily able to find a permanently remote position in the field I really wanted to be in again. I doubled my salary. I don’t have to fight for certain accommodations and I don’t have to try to make other people comfortable with my being disabled. Because I need health insurance/care, I need a job that can pay for it, and if having an in person job was the only way to have enough money to survive, I’d do it. But otherwise? No incentive would make me go back.

      (Teleworking has been an accommodation that the disabled community has been asking for for a really long time. We were told it wasn’t possible. Suddenly it was available when lots of non-disabled people needed to work from home too. This has allowed people to enter the labor market who previously could not! And that’s true for other communities as well. I just want to highlight this because a lot of conversations about returning to the office ignore the people they’d be excluding again.)

      1. Differently abled and then some*

        All of the above. When I began this job, I ask about WFH. I was handed a twelve page HR form to fill out with onerous restrictions. All WFH required advance notice and specific hours. There were NO exceptions even for documentation and request for accommodations.
        So I just ignored the paperwork, did my job, and worked from home as needed. I kept my head down and did not enter into any work place conversation about wfh. (selfish, I know) My supervisor is basically “don’t ask, don’t tell”
        Then the pandemic. I go in “as needed” Mostly I WFH. Officially we are back in the office and I am back to “don’t ask, don’t tell”

      2. lilsheba*

        “(Teleworking has been an accommodation that the disabled community has been asking for for a really long time. We were told it wasn’t possible. Suddenly it was available when lots of non-disabled people needed to work from home too. This has allowed people to enter the labor market who previously could not! And that’s true for other communities as well. I just want to highlight this because a lot of conversations about returning to the office ignore the people they’d be excluding again.)”

        THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So much this!!!!!! I tried for years to get to work from home due to becoming more and more disabled and being chronically ill. But NO it wasn’t POSSIBLE. Well we proved that was BS! It is possible and it needs to keep happening.

      3. The Real Fran Fine*

        +1 to your last paragraph

        This is so important (said as someone with an invisible disability I can manage beautifully from home – not so much onsite).

    17. AlphabetSoupCity*

      Hard line- there are parts of my industry that require in-person, and I simply don’t apply to those roles. If my niche became in-person, I would definitely first try to move to another niche that was remote-only.

    18. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I live in a rural area. It would make more sense to quit if they tried to recall us then to make the long drive on a daily basis. The gas $ and the wear and tear on my car would not be worth it. Especially during inclement weather. It would make more sense to either WFH for another company, or it that wasn’t possible to get a local job near by. Even if the job paid less my costs would go down. (I only have the internet expense because I work from home so that could be cut, gas and insurance would be cheaper, I would have more down time at home for side hustles.)

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Also our offices were in a crime ridden neighbor hood in a crime ridden city and having to walk by ourselves to an unsecure parking lot after dark or in the early morning twilight? (member of management got car jacked in the parking lot one day) No thank you to going back to that now that I live in a place with pretty much zero crime. Not to mention the annoyance of having to scrape off the car, drive thru icy streets, play slip in slide in the company parking lot and side walk for the walk into work as opposed to looking out the window of my WFH office and being thankful that I don’t have to drive anywhere until the weather improves.

    19. ElizabethJane*

      I was recently laid off (it was very much a surprise) and found myself job hunting. I am not in a position where I could be jobless for long, which also means I couldn’t be that picky.

      That being said remote work or a short (15 minutes?) commute was non negotiable for me. And that was based entirely on the options available to me. I work as an analyst in tech and was easily able to find and apply to 73 remote jobs over the course of 5 weeks. While being relatively picky about other benefits offered (advertised PTO, retirement, etc) so any company that required any amount of in person work was just eliminated right off the bat.

      If the job market were to change without my financial situation changing (i.e. I still need a job) then my position would definitely have to change but I’d be mad about it. I just don’t see myself devoting 2+ hours of my day to commuting.

    20. cucumber*

      My calculation wouldn’t change – before the pandemic I was piecing together random part time work (dog sitting, restaurant hosting, teaching yoga etc.) and barely scraping by because I’m disabled. I was able to apply for a 100% remote job during COVID and I love it. I was able to move into a much nicer, larger apartment. If they tried to force us all back into the office, I’d just go back to what I was doing before and find a cheaper housing situation.

    21. Anonymous Koala*

      If my choices were “go back to the office or drop out of the workforce” then I would go back to the office. But if the choice was less dramatic – “go back to the office or change roles”, “go back to the office or switch industries” etc. I would really consider pivoting so I could stay remote, especially if the switch didn’t require much in the way of additional investments in education or a significant salary cut. I would absolutely take a small salary cut or switch industries and roles if it was the only way I could stay remote.

    22. It’s Not Over!*

      I saw a sharp increase in firm WFH requests from employees who didn’t care before because they are dealing with the effects of Long Covid. I wish we could get numbers on how many people have been disabled by this thing.

      1. Kay*

        This is me. With the effects of long COVID I am still able to perform my job well, but not if I need to have also woken up an hour + earlier, driven a difficult commute, parked and walked a pretty significant distance to the building, not have a place to comfortably take short rests, not have access to a private bathroom (sorry for the TMI, but it’s true for a lot of us). I’ve been able to set up my home to be able to live with this long-term if I don’t ever get any better, but the office is absolutely incompatible with my (largely invisible) health needs now.

    23. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      For me it’s non-negotiable forever. I’m incredibly fortunate to be in a strong position professionally/financially plus I was an independent consultant for many years so I’m confident I could roll back to that. But that said, I’m stacking the deck so my resolve won’t be tested — I work on a perma-remote team with no nearby office so they can’t call us back and being remote doesn’t marginalize me. I’d be hesitant to take on a job that had people who worked onsite or nearby.

    24. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      If I could not WFH I would have to stop working — I am disabled and it is a challenge to get to and from an office even if there were anyone hiring nearby for what I do. (I live in a small city but work for big-city organizations.)

    25. Quinalla*

      Honestly at this point, I would seriously consider starting my own company with a selling point of being able to work full time remote. I’ve thought about starting my own company before in my industry and if my current company who has been AWESOME about allowing people to continue to work remote as much as they want or come in as much as they want changed their tune, yeah I’d consider it for sure as we are currently using that as a selling point as much of our industry is butts-in-seat old-school nonsense. Some companies are allowing 2-3 WFH days, but most are back in the office 2-5 days now except us.

    26. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      For me, not at all, but it’s because I think I have a pretty decent case for WFH accommodation due to medical stuff and a few specifics about my current organization.

    27. desdenova*

      I’d consider it if they gave me a private office. This will never happen at my current employer – there are no private offices in the entire workspace, it is a giant open-plan office with people squashed in cheek-to-jowl.

    28. Sally*

      I’m in Tech, so I feel like there will likely be ample remote positions into the future, and if my current job started enforcing in office work, I’d look for another job asap. I am the primary bread winner currently, but my spouse is full time work from home for the government with a very solid salary. If I couldn’t find a fully remote job that paid comparably to what I’m making now, we would likely move out of our high cost of living area and I would either stay home, start my own consulting firm, or find a lower paying remote job. I have in demand skills so I’m not overly concerned.

    29. Curmudgeon in California*

      I work remotely, and love it. It makes my disabilities invisible to the people I work with. I also don’t have to worry if I accidentally eat the wrong thing and have a bathroom poop explosion.

      Not driving an hour or more each way has saved me at least $5000 a year in fuel cost alone. It has given me back two hours a day of uncompensated time.

      What would it take to get me to go back to an office?
      1) An actual office, with a door, not a cube or open plan, so I can actually be productive instead of having weekly migraines
      2) A 25% increase in salary to cover those uncompensated commute hours that you want me to sacrifice

      I used to get frequent migraines, at least twice a month, in open plan offices. WFH I have maybe one a quarter if the weather is really wonky.

    30. la bella vita*

      I actually just started a new job this month and once I move I’ll be going in roughly two days per week. It’s a better job with a better title and more money, so I’m fine with commuting as needed. In my last job I was miserable and working from home was my saving grace, so no amount of additional money from that company would’ve made me go into the office.

    31. Middle Sized Manager*

      I was in this spot ~ a year ago, and I was much more open to in-office work than I would be now. I was moving with or without a job, so I didn’t want to rule out jobs, especially because I work in a relatively niche industry.

      But, if I were to look for a new job, it would have to be a lot of money to make it worth leaving – I can work flexible hours whenever needed with no questions asked, my boss is fantastic, and (the big one), we went down to one car during the panini, so it would need to be worth the monthly car payment. I know there’s a lot to be said for job hopping, especially right now, but I have a fantastic work/life blend with growth opportunities where I am, and I just can’t see myself sacrificing remote work to make more money with potentially more stress.

    32. Buffy*

      I made a career shift to tech during the pandemic and a large facet of that was the knowledge that I would be likely to be able to remain remote in future roles.

    33. Flash Packet*

      I’m good enough at what I do that if my employer required us to go back 5 days a week, I would change jobs. And that goes for whatever the job market is like. My skillset will always be in demand.

      If, however, every single company that could benefit from my skillset required 5 days in the office, I would stay with my current company. And I would go in those 5 days a week because I am not independently wealthy.

    34. J*

      I took a pay cut (close to 50%) at one point in the pandemic to have a fully remote option. Given that I’m disabled, it was a top priority to be remote, even at the expense of my earnings. Then in 2021, my spouse’s sibling died of Covid he got in the workplace about 15 years shy of retirement age. We decided to switch all sorts of priorities and that included jobs and cars and potentially even our city of choice. I’m already high risk but do I want to commit to a job that might kill me? Does my spouse want to work until he dies like his brother? Do we want to live in a community that denied how his brother died?

      On the job front, I might have a limited market, my partner does not, but we’ve decided we’d rather earn up to 50% less and downsize our home rather than go back to jobs that take so much of our time/energy. I’m lucky that the market showed some response so I’m now back to a job higher than my February 2020 salary but I’m also working much fewer hours, as is my spouse. In the meantime, I am aggressively saving, working on additional revenue streams for the household, and planning a long-term move so we can move away from in person job dependency. It requires a full lifestyle shift and sacrifice but we’re committed. My health isn’t going to get any better and I’m still decades away from full disability and this was a wake up call for me.

    35. Liz*

      Many people in my specific field have been working largely remotely since before Covid (which further accelerated that switch) so fortunately, I will be unlikely to have to make that choice. I just accepted a new job and every position I interviewed for was remote.

    36. Just say NO*

      My company had mandated 3 days a week back in the office but I moved 8 hour drive away…so I just said I couldn’t. This is a combination of me being at a point in my career where I have the confidence and capital to say no and knowing that there is other work out there for someone with my experience level. I could easily find a job, even if the job market was slow. The pandemic has just made it so most of the jobs I see posted in my field are remote, which gives me even more confidence.
      The funny part is that everyone knows I’m fully remote and there have been NO consequences. NO ONE cares. I’ve been doing this for over a year and am still confused why others in the office haven’t followed my lead.

      1. Beep Boop*

        There’s literally no way to enforce a mass return-to-office of unwilling employees unless you want to burn your business to the ground in the process. I’ve heard from several friends that those who have quietly chosen to continue working from home in violation of official requirements have faced no penalties.

        1. HappytobeWorkerBee*

          This!! It made me laugh out loud-probably the vision of an actual empty office building burning to the ground because no one showed up anymore.

          I would imagine the not-gonna-come-into-the-office-until-they-make-me mode might last until the market swings back to the employer side but will employers ever really have that upper hand position again? Boomers are retiring left and right and I see hiring signs literally everywhere I go. I am so curious to see how this all plays out over the next year or so and am very much looking forward to Alison’s article.

        2. Alex*

          We have had a mandated 3 days in the office for a while now, but nobody does it.
          The reason is simply that middle management has not even dared to tell their employees about the new mandates by upper management, because they know it will lead to mass quittings. (Or rather, they said “btw, the official stance I’ve been told to enforce is this, but I’m simply going to ignore that. continue as usual. If someone says something, send them to me”).

    37. OrdinaryJoe*

      I’m about 10 yrs from retirement and for the last 5 years have work from the home/travel for work often. If my job required me to come into the office, I wouldn’t derail my retirement plans and draw a hard line in the sand but I’d actively look for another job that keeps me home, even if it meant a 10% pay cut. I turned down a pay raise – about 15% – Fall 2019 because it was 100% in office (when not travelling) and the ED was very much against WFH or anything beyond the barest amount of flexibility. If I had known what was coming in 6 months, I might have taken the money :-)

    38. itsame*

      I went fully remote before the pandemic, and have felt very strongly about staying remote for a while now. I would have to be very desperate (think out of work for months/unable to make rent/etc.) to be willing to take an in-person job again. Personally, I’ve been glad to see the increase in remote positions the past few years just for – an increase that includes my current company, which transitioned to permanently remote-first during the pandemic.

    39. Anon in Midwest*

      This is a great question! I moved to a semi rural area and bought a house in 2020, so I am sticking with my decision no matter what. If all remote jobs disappear in six months, forever, I will simply not work as a knowledge worker ever again. I am lucky to have amassed good savings, and live in a low cost of living area. So I would explore local physical jobs like a part time service job, and probably only for 5 more years before fully retiring around age 40.

    40. Beep Boop*

      My old office announced on July 1st that staff working remotely would be required to return to the office at least 50% in September. I started job hunting that evening and accepted a new fully-remote position 5 weeks later (along with a 30% raise and better benefits). So I guess I did “take a hard line” about the issue? That being said, I wouldn’t have quit on September 1st without another offer in hand. However, I made it clear to my whole team that I was looking. Under current circumstances, it would take a truly crazy amount of money/opportunities/perks to get me to an office more than once a quarter. Obviously, the job market or my field could change in the future and cause me to rethink that calculus, but for now remote is the only acceptable option.

    41. CTA*

      I accepted my role on the condition that it would be fully remote and I told them I had no plans to relocate. If I was required to relocate, I would need them to require relocation assistance. Working on-site is not appealing to me. Most employees work in spaces with no windows. For my team, my colleagues call their assigned office “the cave.” I’m much happier and more productive working from home without having to worry about a commute or have people look over my shoulder.

    42. J. Quadrifrons*

      I quit my job when they went back to banning WFH for all but the most dire of emergencies because I knew I could afford to take a few months off to recover from burnout and still find a WFH job within a month. (It took almost two, in the end, but I could have had one in two weeks if I’d been willing to do hybrid)

    43. Susan*

      I do feel like I have leverage bc of market. Less that I feel confident that I could find a new position that’s remote. More that I’m fairly confident my employer wouldn’t fire me bc it would be very hard for them to find a quality replacement.

      I’m a lawyer at a small firm, and it has been nearly impossible to fill current vacancies for another associate and a paralegal/legal assistant.

    44. WFH forever*

      I worked almost 100% of the pandemic in office.

      I’m now immunocompromised. It’s new and it’s difficult to figure out my tolerance for risk. If I get any kind of sick (COVID, cold, flu), it can be a big problem for me.

      Working from home is important to me for that reason. (Although, yes, it’s also been great for my mental health and just improved quality of life in general.) I do worry that the market will change and I won’t find another WFH gig in the future. But I’m trying not to worry about that until I need a new job.

    45. Covid is still a thing*

      I’m on a temporary extension of WFH and soon, we will all go to hybrid flex or “full-time remote” with a stipulation that we must go in at least six times a year.

      Both I and my husband are @ high risk for adverse outcomes or death from Covid. I’m still negotiating an extension under ADA, but most likely will end up between a rock and a hard place. The only thing that will make me go in would be loss of income, before I could line up something else. And if I go in, I’ll drive to avoid public transportation, be fully outfitted in respirator, goggles and possibly diapers to avoid using the bathroom and I’ll get out ASAP. Since I’m the only income/breadwinner – this push to go in while the pandemic is far from over is enormously stressful, since it’s damned if you do (go in and face possibility of bringing home Covid) or lose my long term employment as an older worker.

      If the pandemic were over, I’d be fine following our flex work program. But, I am not capable of pretending that the pandemic is a thing of the past…

    46. Katie*

      I don’t think my organization can push people back onsite. I, and my cohort, were hired during the lockdown, and therefore fully remote. My company has always had issues with their location (it’s in a fairly unattractive area, with a long commute from lots of major cities), and their compensation always kind of reflected that (I live in a major city, and their salary band still matched those in my local area). My entire cohort, all of their new hires, don’t live anywhere near the actual work site (I’d be looking at a three-hour total commute for onsite). Also, we don’t need to.
      Forcing the issue would cause me, and probably most of my fellow remote hires to quit, just as we’ve fully established ourselves in our roles. Remote work widened their applicant pool, and they were able to get people, like me, who would never consider the position, considering the location of the actual site. I don’t think they can shut the door on that.

    1. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

      This is something we’ve pushed for since I was hired in 10 years ago. This might be how we FINALLY get the leverage we need.

    2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I’ve long thought my office could benefit from this. So many ppl literally dash out the door at 4 on the dot trying to rush home for that pick up or risk huge fines from the provider. Sadly, there’s no real place for it – no outdoor play area. It would be a huge investment.

    3. Anonymous here*

      And elder care. As a member of the sandwich generation, I need both to make coming into the office feasible right now.

      1. RIP Pillow Fort*

        This. My mom has a ton of health issues and 2-3 appointments per week. Between my sister and I juggling, them we get them covered but I would love some flexibility on this other than “take sick leave and come back to a mountain of work.”

    4. Stressed Out Working Mom*

      Exactly! My salary barely covers child care as is. We’ve had long discussions about whether or not it even makes sense for me to have a job, which is mind-boggling!

      We live in a major city, and only have one car, which means my commute is an hour each way by planes, trains, and automobiles. That’s two more hours a day to pay for childcare when I could be working at home and get to spend those two extra hours with my family.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      THIS. We do have excellent childcare at my workplace (I’m on a college campus and there are a few different childcare sites there), but it is EXPENSIVE AS HELL–even compared to other quality options in my highest-cost-of-childcare state. And there isn’t anywhere near enough of it to meet demand. People wait on waitlists for months and months. My commute to work is ridiculous, but if I could make that commute and bring my son with me, and put him into that quality childcare on campus, and pay what I’m paying at the small center close to my home? And not have to worry about being late for pickup because it’s right there at work? I’d absolutely be more willing to come in more often. The place near my house only allows for 8 hours of care a day, so it would absolutely not be an option if my husband and I worked on site anywhere in our industries.

    6. Momma Bear*

      And options for older elementary kids for snow days or school breaks. If not on-site, see if they can negotiate with a nearby center.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Oh, that would be nice too. My office is so NOT kid-friendly, it would be a seismic shift in management if that were ever available.

    7. Bananagrams*

      100 thousand times this. Right now we pay a high (totally worth it) price for an amazing nanny, and in working from home I can see my kiddo (who is just over a year old) whenever I have a break. I’m not giving up time with my child to commute into an office. But, if excellent childcare were tied to my employment, and onsite? Not only would I go onsite, I would be WAY more loyal to that employer. Which I suppose is really more of an indictment of the state of support for working parents in my country (the US) than anything else.

    8. Magc*

      My first job after graduation had on-site daycare starting in the 70’s. I worked there for 9 years before having kids and never realized how incredible it was until I had my first. Because the childcare staff were all employees, they got the same great benefits and were paid reasonably well. It was very common for employees to not consider leaving until their youngest was in kindergarten and they no longer needed full-time daycare.

      1. Magc*

        P.S. It was NOT subsidized, so having more than one child was really only possible if holding a higher-than-average-pay position in the organization.

        1. JustaTech*

          My friend has worked for two day care centers now that started life as subsidized daycare for hospitals and then that perk was eliminated for the hospital staff. The centers didn’t close, but they lost students whose parents couldn’t afford them anymore.
          (Daycares for hospitals are especially important because they offer substantially expanded hours to cover more shifts, something that’s almost impossible to find at most places.)

    9. Golden*

      YES! I just had a baby, and if my work had on-site childcare, I’d be in the office all day every day. For now, I’m just going to work from home until someone tells me I can’t.

      Our office of maybe 60 people or so had 8 babies within the last year alone, so I’m sure it would reliably bring people in. I’m a cat person/owner, but I can see an on-site doggy daycare being similarly effective.

    10. Massive Dynamic*

      My office is literally making this happen! Won’t help me too much as my kids are school-age now but will DEFINITELY help a lot of my coworkers.

      BUT but but… onsite daycare doesn’t stop having to work from home, odd hours at that, when kid is sick. We haven’t implemented it yet but regular “keep sick kid home” policies should be in effect.

      1. JustaTech*

        There’s a big cancer research center/hospital up the street from me that has a specialized daycare for sick kids whose parent’s Can Not call out sick to care for their kids (like, they’re performing surgery or have a vital experiment or something like that).

        The kids are sorted by symptoms (respiratory over there, GI in that room, rashes over here) and the staff are all nurses. It’s also hella expensive and I get the impression that no one uses it unless they absolutely have to.

    11. Engineering Mom*

      100%. I was pregnant when lockdown began in 2020, so I can’t compare to childcare pre-pandemic. But my toddler is in full time daycare and still comes home a few days a month because he’s sick or the staff is sick. And, there’s rumors they’re so short on staff they may have to transition everyone to part-time care. We have no family nearby and my husband can’t work remotely (manufacturing). I can’t go back to the office full-time with a shaky childcare situation.

      Also, the fact that I can run a little laundry or the vacuum cleaner sporadically throughout my day means I don’t have to spend all of my nights and weekends doing house chores and can instead hang out with my kid. Not sure what an employer could do to counter that, other than higher salaries or offering hybrid schedules.

    12. Hotdog not dog*

      Yes! On-site daycare would benefit all employees, not just the ones with children. Imagine if you could get a last minute piece of information to wrap up a task instead of needing to pick up the threads the next day because your colleague didn’t need to race out the door! And the parents on your team weren’t stressed out about trying to balance their whole day around drop off and pick up! As a parent to an older teen who doesn’t require care, I still benefit.

    13. academic fibro warrior*

      Excellent subsidized child care on the job site has been done before. It’s one way the US kept things going during world War 2. It was childcare or businesses shutting down. We can do it again.

    14. Grogu's Mom*

      Yes, came here to say this. Childcare has been extra-stressful during Covid and even more parents than usual are settling for sub-par situations (hours-long commutes to daycare, lower-quality care) because it’s all we can afford or all we can get off the waitlists for. I work in a field where it used to be common to have excellent, subsidized childcare on site, but it all shut down during Covid and hasn’t been reopened. If my workplace offered this again, I’d be on site every day, reliably, and happy to do it. Because we have to drop the baby off at daycare, either my husband or I already have a “commute” even when working from home (which is in the opposite direction of work, since the affordable care if farther from the city).

      But it has to be subsidized down to a level that can actually be afforded by the salaries that the organization pays. I keep seeing the on-site childcare benefit being replaced by a 10% off deal with the super-expensive city daycares, but 10% off a $3000-a-month daycare is still too far over our budget. The on-site centers were previously half of that.

  4. Foreign Octopus*

    To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything a company can offer me that would be enough to draw me back to the office even for a part-time/hybrid basis. The benefits I get from working from home far outweigh anything I’d receive from the office, as much as I enjoy free food.

    1. Wats*

      I agree with Foreign Octopus. I suppose a truckload of money MIGHT persuade me, but that would probably come with the kind of work I’m not interested in doing for my mental health. So, yeah. Probably nothing.

      1. somanyquestions*

        I could be bought. But it would cost a lot. I’ve already turned down what I once thought was my “dream” job (and a 25% raise) because it would take me from FT at home to FT in the office. It was a difficult decision but I am too happy here, and it’s not like I’m destitute. I’d retire earlier in that job, but I would also NEED to retire earlier.

      2. ElizabethJane*

        I thought I could for a significant amount of money. Turns out I will not do a hellish commute (1.5 hours + each way) for $40,000.

        I mean for the right dollar amount and a less shit commute I’d probably do it. But that number is higher than I thought.

        1. Alex*

          I mean yeah, if you pay me about 10x as much as you do now (which would break the 1M/yr threshold) then yes, I could slave away in an office FT for a year or two… and then use my >1M in savings in my bank account to quit that job and take another that is fully remote and I enjoy (and don’t have to worry about the salary that much).

      3. pbnj*

        I’d maybe if working < 32 hours/week with an increase in pay. As much as I'd love having Fridays off, it's not worth losing at least an hour/day commuting and not having time throughout the week to do quick chores. So there would need to be a sizeable increase in pay.

      4. Office Gumby*

        The amount of money it would take for one to overcome one’s principles and/or lines-in-the-dirt is much higher than one first estimates.

        You don’t really realise the value of your time, your patience, your health, until after you’ve traded it away for money, and then realise you’ve been shortchanged.

        Think about how much money it wold take for you to change your mind. Raise that number until you get to a “oh, no, that would be unreasonable” figure. Now, double that number. This is the *minimum* amount you should be asking for.

    2. Anonymous Koala*

      Same. There’s just too much to be gained from working from home. No amount of free food allows me to put a load of laundry in between meetings or unload the dishwasher on my lunch break. It’s better for my work too, because it gives me space to disconnect a little during the work day and return fresh and mentally relaxed, which in turn improved the quality of my output.

    3. Twill*

      100% agree. There are always benefits for different people in different situations but for me working from home is my gold standard.

    4. Colette*

      Especially during a pandemic. People are still dying.

      I could see the point if the pandemic were actually over, but it’s not, so nope.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Seriously. I have an immune compromised housemate. The question is like asking “How much is your housemate’s life worth?”

        I have a friend with cancer. Yes, he’s vaccinated. But one of his housemates works in retail, was inadequately masked, and got Covid. She then gave it to him and his spouse. He had to go to the hospital for it. It could have killed him.

        The goddamn PANDEMIC IS NOT OVER! These clowns who want people back in the office are prioritizing their sick need for control over people’s lives, and I hate it.

        Google demanded a couple days a week in-office. Now they have significant outbreaks because they are all open plan offices. I doubt that is good for either productivity of “collaboration”.

        1. WFH forever*

          From an immunocompromised person: thank you.

          I get dirty looks and comments when I mask. It’s insane. And I’m even in a liberal state, but everyone stopped masking so long ago.

    5. Cold and Tired*

      100% agree. I’ve been remote since pre pandemic, and I could never go back. I live out of state from my company headquarters and went back last week for our annual in person retreat, and just the logistics of physically going in every day for the week (commute, food, etc) were exhausting on top of doing my job. And while it was nice to see people in person, it wasn’t worth the trade offs. So unless I get an office down the street that I can walk to once a week, I’m not going back in person again if I have a choice.

      1. ferrina*

        Oh man, not having to worry about lunch every day! It’s so small but really eases stress. I don’t have to try to get lunch together in the morning or pay $20 per day; when I wfh, I just meander over to the fridge and see what leftovers I feel like eating.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Not having to pack my breakfast and lunch the night before (or meal plan/prep on Sundays) has freed up so much stress from my week. I know some people love it, but it really stressed me out for some reason, and I love not having to do it anymore.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Just before the pandemic kicked off, my GP was doing all sorts of tests to set what was causing some odd symptoms. Within a month of forced WFH, they all resolved.

        It turns out the stress of getting on an overcrowded train into work and back again, spending all my evenings making dinner and doing chores and making the next day’s breakfast and lunch (I can’t eat first thing), and somehow finding the time to walk to fitness classes and back in among that, was having an actual physical impact.

        What can an employer offer me that’s worth substantial negative impacts on my physical and mental health? Obviously nothing. I go into the office two days a week because I work better there and need the human interaction, but I can’t go back to four or five.

    6. Dittany*

      Absolutely. My working experience has been SO much better since I started working from home – no commute, no gritting my teeth and ignoring my coworkers’ political opinions, no goddamn open-plan office. If they tried to make me go back, I’d start looking for another job.

    7. The Original K.*

      Ditto. I actually really dislike the actual office space my employer has so I never want to be there, but in general, I don’t want to go into an office every day ever again. I could see going in for quarterly or monthly meetings and I’ve gone in a handful of times for work I truly can’t do at home, but the daily office grind is done, for me. The pros of remote work far, far outweigh the cons in my situation.

      1. K too*

        >I actually really dislike the actual office space my employer has so I never want to be there, but in general, I don’t want to go into an office every day ever again.

        When I was first thinking of applying for work at my current employer they were in a different building and I hated it so much I chose not to. Once they had moved I did, and have been there a long time now. Just before the pandemic shut everything down we acquired a new company but didn’t really have the space to move them all into our office, so instead the redesigned our spaces to make more desks – taking away 1/3 of our cubicle space (making our L shapes into side-by-side 5ft. sit-stand desks), taking away most of our personal storage space, and lowering the partition walls so they’re replaced with clear dividers. If I were viewing this new office for the first time I wouldn’t apply for a job there again. Funny thing is, despite the remodel – that was only completed after everything shut down – almost no one has ever been to the office since we haven’t been forced to, and there’s still not enough space for everyone even if they tried.

    8. Random Bystander*

      Parking another concurrence here, too. Between not having to sit near annoying co-workers (I sat next to someone who would start dealing with her stress by saying “I’m just going to kill myself. I’m going to just open the window and jump out. I’m going to get a gun and shoot myself.” (In a hospital, fifth floor–windows didn’t even open, but not going to lie that after four hours of hearing these things on repeat it took a lot of effort for me not to say “you want I should open that window for you?”). Same co-worker wanted the light-blocking shades down all day long (ask for a change of desk away from the window? Nah, too easy) … so now at home I have direct daylight from window available during daylight hours.

      Like Anonymous Koala, the chance to run laundry/dishwasher during little downtime bits of the day is another big plus. Likewise when I purchased a new dishwasher and could just take a couple minutes to let the installer in and another few at the end of the process to sign off on the paperwork (versus burning hours of PTO since I’d have had to be in the house throughout the process/window of time vs solid appointment).

      And, if I get stressed at work, I can pet one of my cats.

      In short, while I didn’t expect to work from home prior to March 2020, now that I have been WFH, what would get me back to the office would involve a *large* increase in pay and job duties that actually cannot be performed remotely.

      1. jr*

        that sounds horrible, and sounds like a goatile workplace. did you report that person? they clearly need help

          1. Random Bystander*

            I like “goatile”. No, did not report (it really wouldn’t have done any good–I wasn’t the only one in earshot, just the one closest).

      2. A More Brilliant Orange*

        “Between not having to sit near annoying co-workers…”

        My open-office is packed. Going back to an environment where everyone is packed in like sardines is not very tempting.

        I have to wonder how much avoiding the open-office experience is behind the reluctance to work from the office.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      I am hybrid right now, and I agree with this. I really, really like my job/boss/team, so I’m doing the part-time commute now… but I will also freely admit that my tolerance for it has nosedived v. before the pandemic. I have gotten used to seeing my family more, being able to take my kids to activities, and not commuting 1.5-2 hours per day. If I could do what I do and never go in, I’d be really happy.

    10. Iroqdemic*

      Honestly, same. I did not realize how much I hated working in an office till I got to WFH full time. At home, I can have a door on my office; I’m not high enough on the org chart to warrant an office with a door if I go back, and it is SO MUCH HARDER to stay focused when I’m in a cubicle farm. Combine that with the fact most of the people I work with live in other cities/states, so I would be on the phone vs. in person meetings most of the time anyway, and how much more time I have since I don’t have to get ready, drive to work, drive home, etc., I will never go back to an office. I am a better employee when I work from home. If they tried to make us go back, I would look for a full telecommuting position in another dept. (big multinational corporation so there are TONS of telecommuting spots all the time).

      1. Chief Bottle Washer*

        I am high enough up on the org chart to have had an office…until my employer decided that they would give up the lease on their really nice corporate HQ space in favor of contracting down into a space in a MUCH older and less nice building with cubes and almost no private offices. They did this before they asked folks to come back and then used the excuse that no one was coming in (before they asked them to) as the reason. I actually prefer to be in the office if other folks will be around, but going back to hot desking in cubicles is my version of hell.

    11. Eat My Squirrel*

      Agreed. Give me a private office, let me sit on the floor to work (blanket nest person from yesterday is kind of how my home office is and I love it!), let me bring my dog with me, cut my hours to 4-8 hour days so my commute doesn’t change the overall time I don’t have available, and give me a raise that actually keeps up with inflation. Then MAYBE I would go in.

      1. Mantis Tobaggan, MD*

        I’m expected to be in the office everyday, which I don’t like, but honestly having my own office with a door makes it much more tolerable.

      2. vinegary anon*

        My employer gave me a really really nice office so I could work onsite comfortably while keeping fairly covid-safe. I also flex my schedule as need to manage household needs (pet care mostly) so wfh first thing in the morning and some afternoons. Not as nice as full wfh, but I can see retirement on the horizon and this is better than any workplace arrangement I’ve had in years.
        The worst part is my commute, but a 30 minute drive gets me out in the country to my small farm, paid for by the steady paycheck, so it’s all good.

    12. Database Developer Dude*

      Same. Not even a truckload of money would convince me. I deal with enough of people who don’t do what I do trying to tell me how to do my job as it is. Remote lets me keep them at arms length.

    13. ferrina*

      Yup. My commute is 45-60 minutes one way (unless the metro is having issues, then add time). I have two young kids. Being able to work from home means that I can coach their soccer team, make meals from scratch, and give them time to just play at home. Plus being able to do a little housework during the day- such a sanity saver!
      I’m happy to go in the office a couple times per month, but only when there’s a reason to. If I’m going to meet with someone in person or get free food, that’s an incentive. But not an incentive to get me to come more than every other week- that 2 hrs per day I get back by not commuting is worth so much for me.

    14. Lynn*

      Adding my voice to the chorus (we agree, we agree).

      I am permanently remote and have been since several years pre-pandemic. My company has gone fully remote and has no plans to go back to having folks in person on a regular basis (they sold their large building and have rented a small office in order to have a conference room and mailing address). Even the folks who live local to the office (I am in Colorado, my home office is in Chicago) are not expected to go back in-person, except the two people tasked with checking the mail, on any kind of regular basis. And those two only go in for a couple of hours a day-long enough to check and sort the mail, collect payments and then scan anything that needs to go out to someone remote.

      Even once I get laid off (which I do expect, as my company supports a declining industry that has been made worse by the pandemic), I will not be willing to take a job that requires me to go to an office daily/weekly. The occasional meeting-sure. But I will never work in an on-site office as a regular occurrence again.

      That said, I am in a position to say that as, if push came to shove, I could afford to retire early. I’d prefer to keep working until my husband is ready to retire in a few years, but I don’t absolutely have to do so. Which allows me to take a hardline stance that I might not have been able to make at other points in my life.

    15. High Score!*

      Same! I go in occasionally for company events or when I need the lab. My employer just made our office super functional and nice with great coffee and snacks for in office meetings. Then they told us that we could work wherever we wanted to and set our own schedules.
      Shockingly, productivity has gone up and turnover is at an all time low.
      I have 2 extra hours every day that used to be commute. Since I can go in for partial days, no rush hour traffic for me.
      For me, there’s no going back.

    16. Kookaburra*

      This is the response I was looking for. I currently go to my office two days a week but not because I have to. I have a few recurring weekly tasks and it’s a bit easier to do them in-person. Also, I live only a mile from my office. (My boss doesn’t care where or how I work as long as I do my job well. This summer, I worked 100% remotely for a month when my family travelled to another state.)

      The ONLY thing that could get me to go back to an office five days a week would be a dream job + a dump truck full of money (i.e. an obscenely high salary) + living very close to the office. I don’t care about food or swag or any of the other “perks” some companies are offering. I care about not wasting my time commuting, not wasting money on gas, being able to spend that extra time doing things like exercising or hanging out with my family, and being able to do minor household tasks during the day (like unloading the dishwasher or starting a load of laundry) while I microwave my lunch. Plus, I am more productive when I work from home so that’s a benefit to my employer.

      TLDR: Unless the job market in my field drastically changes and I have no choice but to take a job in an office, I am NEVER going back to working a job where I am in an office five days a week.

      PS – I just want to add that most of the people pushing for workers to go back to the office are just bad managers. They’re people who probably didn’t know how to manage people in an office so they certainly don’t know how to manage people remotely. And most of the business execs I see publicly complaining about how workers don’t want to return to the office are dinosaurs. They’re hypocritical old men who are out of touch with the issues regular people face.

  5. Choggy*

    I can honestly say that nothing would get me back in the office more than I am going in, which is currently three days, but want to WFH more. My commute is not good, and has actually gotten worse (I drive), and that’s not going to change.

    1. Quinalla*

      Avoiding the commute is one of the biggest pluses for me as not only is it stressful it is also a huge time-suck. I’m over commuting and hope to never have to go back. When I am out driving for personal things during commuting time, it is the worst. I don’t know how you make working in the office great enough to offset how awful commuting is.

  6. MisterForkbeard*

    My company wants people to come back but isn’t trying too hard. They’ve re-opened the (really nice, actually) cafeteria with a discount, keeps encouraging people to come in, have Exec Assistants get most meetings over 4 people catered, and so on. Subsidized child care on site is back on, as is the gym and other perks.

    Of course, it being a big company there’s some other things that screw up the messaging. Like unassigning most people from set desks and putting them on Flex Seating, etc. People have a lot less incentive to come in when they don’t actually have a place of their own.

    1. The Original K.*

      Flex seating is so demeaning to me. Like, you want me to give my all to a place but you won’t even give me a place to sit? I can see it for certain people – the sales team at a previous employer was primarily remote and on the road so they didn’t have desks because they were almost never there. But in-office employees deserve their own seats. It’s really the least employers can do.

      1. MisterForkbeard*

        You know what’s really dumb about it? We moved everyone to flex seating because the company charges its departments more for dedicated desks than flex desks. And because no one was coming in ANYWAY but we were still being charged for it, everyone moved to flex desks.

        And it’s all accounting fuckery anyway, since it’s all inter-departmental charges.

      2. Zephy*

        +1000. A previous job in the Before Times had almost enforced flex seating – certain people were assigned specific desks on specific days, to make sure we could all rotate through all of the areas of the job rather than sticking someone in one place all the time. (It was not a job that could be done remotely, so I have no idea what they did for the first bit of the panini. Furloughed everyone, I guess.) Suppose we painted teapots, someone would be assigned to the red teapots specifically and someone would be assigned to the blue teapots, and everyone else would handle either red or blue teapots as the orders came in. Making sure Jane didn’t get stuck on blue teapots every day is a nice idea in theory, and technically she did need to know how to paint both per her job description, but in reality it was more like Jane much preferred the blue teapots and only grudgingly took her turn on the red teapot line when she had to.

        Nonprofit, preferred to pack my department with part-timers rather than hire any new FT people (and pay benefits, the horror), so it was different people sitting in different places every day. At least most of us had consistent schedules week-to-week in terms of days and hours, if not space, but I think those schedules got loosy-goosier with each new hire after me, and I felt like I had to fight pretty hard to get the level of consistency that I did.

    2. Robin*

      I just started a new job and we have an open floor plan + some offices/conference rooms, all flex seating. Everyone has an assigned default desk, but because of COVID distancing requirements, we can only sit diagonally from one another. If somebody booked a seat right next to mine before I got a chance to, I would have to move to another desk for that day. As such, we have to make sure our desks are usable by others, though we can decorate however we like.

      Currently, that is mostly fine, though I do not love the system. Very few people actually come into the office because the current policy is technically hybrid (come in once a week) but there are definitely folks who just WFH full time because nobody is actually tracking anything. As such, there are few issues getting the seat you want.

      Here is the funny bit: out of curiosity, I asked my manager if we actually have enough desks for all the employees + interns if COVID were to disappear and in-person work became the norm. We do not. Which makes me wonder about the assigned default desks and what will happen when (please make this a when!) we get COVID resolved and policy shifts back to favoring in-person.

      1. High Score!*

        Our company switched to hot desking too but no default desks. The facility closes in the evening and a cleaning crew cleans and disinfects every night.

    3. online millenial*

      My job switched to hot desking as well, even though we have enough space for everyone to have their own desks. What’s ended up happening is a) most people just don’t go in and b) when people do go in, they work in an empty conference room. At this point, having my own desk wouldn’t make me want to go into the office, but losing that space sure didn’t help.

    4. sacados*

      Ugh, yes I really HATE the flex seating.
      I’m actually enjoying going back into the office — I appreciated a lot of things about the work from home lifestyle but after a couple years it did drag a bit. Now my office has moved to a (very flexible) hybrid format. Most of my team does M/F work from home and Tues-Th in the office, with still a huge amount of freedom to switch it up from that. The company as a whole is encouraging people to come back in, but there’s absolutely no overt pressure to do so if it’s not what you want.
      Personally, I like being forced to get out of the house, seeing people in person, putting on actual clothes from time to time … Though I’m not going to lie, it hits different. The first time I did three full days in a row in the office, I could not believe how WIPED I was by the end of the week.

      But the one irritation about the whole thing is the flex seating. Given the flexible/no pressure stance, my company has chosen to handle this by assigning desk “neighborhoods” to specific teams, but not to individuals. So in my case, the whole 2F of the building I work in is allocated to the Teapot Production Teams, with various groups of desks within that being specified for Kids Teapots, Adult Teapots, Teapot Finance team, etc.
      The Adult Teapot space, where I work, actually does not have enough desks if all members of our team come in on the same day. So in that case you’re forced to kind of float around to some of the other “neighborhoods” on the floor to find an available space. Granted that doesn’t happen every day, because we usually don’t have everyone in the office at the same time. But it’s still an annoyance to have to go around every morning all “is this desk open? Have you seen anyone sitting here today?”
      Not to mention I really just would love to be able to, say, leave a sweater at my desk. Or tack a schedule up on the wall. All things that you can’t do without an assigned space.

      A few times we’ve gotten various higher-ups and department managers asking what it would take to encourage more people to come back in to the office more, and the answer is ALWAYS “assigned desks.”

    5. Miette*

      At my sister’s office, they are hybrid and require people to be in the office 2 days per week, I believe. Because they still want to enforce social distancing, they’ve spaced desks to whatever their standard now is. This means there are not enough desks even if they decided to go back to full time in the office, so have had to move to a hotdesking policy.

      On top of this, to enforce a maximum daily number of people allowed in the building, an attendance reservation system now exists. Employees must “register” that they want to be onsite on any given day. If they don’t, their access badge won’t work when they try to get into the building.

      What message is this sending? You must be at the office some of the time, but you have to remember to schedule it, but then again you might wind up in a crappy desk/location when you do finally get here… it sounds so exhausting

    6. SP*

      My company has hot desking too. I hate it because I can’t leave things overnight and I have to pack up everything every day, and then unpack all of it in the morning when I come in the next day. I have two work laptops and my job requires specialized peripherals to use our software in addition to the standard mouse. So every.frickin.day when it’s time to leave I have to cram two laptops, three mice, a headset, and two power cords into my bag. Then in the morning I have to unload my Mary Poppins bag of electronics and set it all up again. I probably lose a few hours of work a week packing and unpacking my office luggage. In the Before Times I had it all connected to a docking station on my desk and all I had to do was plunk down my laptop and I was good to go.

      1. Spruce*

        We have hotdesking too, but everyone has a fixed locker – so we can always leave everything we need in a safe place overnight. It makes hot desking a lot better!

    7. amethyst*

      My company is also re-assigning people from desks into flex seating, as suddenly now everyone is on an aggressive ambition to downsize office space to save money. They are doing it in the most irritating way possible.

      It actually reduces flexibility – there’s a certain percentage of time that you have to work onsite in order to keep a physical office, so I and many others have decided that if you don’t work that amount or more there’s really no point in working onsite *at all*. I’m definitely not driving into the office to go sit in a flex space. Especially since I’m a manager who works on really super secret stuff!

      They also rushed to do this because (IMO) they really want to try to get rid of physical space quickly, so they kind of went back on a promise they made to give us plenty of time to decide how we wanted to work and are using an unsavory method to figure out “accurately” how many people are actually working in the office at a given time. This is upsetting a lot of people. Our company posted record profits during the pandemic because of the collective efforts of our employees, who worked hard and kept it together during a time of extreme stress and uncertainty. These last two years were HARD on us as a people. We did all that work to make this place successful and you don’t even want to pay to give me a place to sit? No – you don’t even want to maintain the place to sit I already *had*? Yeah, well, then I don’t need to come into the office. I love my company and we’re normally good at doing well by our folks, but this seems misguided.

  7. Smitty*

    What would get me back is really flexibility. I’m happy to work a hybrid schedule, but I have no interest in working a job where the number of days I come to the officer per week or per month are kept track of.

    If I have a month where it makes sense for me to spend most of my time in the office, that’s fine. If I have a month where it’s just not necessary and I don’t feel like putting on real pants, I would hope that my employer could be as flexible with me as I’m willing to be with them.

    If I am doing my job to the expected standard, I hope that my employer can work with me in truly being flexible and not just worrying about Butts in Seats.

    1. Justin*

      At my job they ask us to tell them when we plan to go in but don’t demand. And that’s how I prefer it. I usually go in twice a week but next Friday I can’t, so I won’t. Flexibility is everything.

    2. Sloanicota*

      This is true but also, one reason it’s not going well at my org is some people are flexing their time, so there’s no ability to actually have meetings fully in-person anyway. We end up having zooms because the worst offender is actually my boss. If I trucked it all the way into the office but then we end up having all our meetings as zooms, it makes me feel like I should have just stayed home. So I don’t have the perfect solution here.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, that’s our problem too – the higher-ups were gung-ho about returning to the office, but now they’re the ones who aren’t coming in much, so meetings have to be remote anyways. I don’t mind coming in to the office so I’m not overly upset about it (more of an eye-roll level of annoyance) but people who object to coming in are absolutely steamed.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I do think it’s darkly funny that for a while our boss was gung-ho about in person staff meetings, then consistently skipped them all, as did the #2, so it ended up being just a crew of junior people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder trying to peer into a computer screen while the leaders were at home. The words “canon fodder” came up a few times.

      2. Tau*

        Our company leaves it up to each individual team to figure out whether they’re going to have mandatory in-office days and how often. Our team discussed it and decided that every two weeks we’d try to meet in the office on Monday, which is the day we have a ton of planning meetings. It’s not mandatory-mandatory, in the sense that some people still end up dialling in for one reason or another and that’s fine (and we’d also make it work if someone was full-time remote and living in another city or the like), but we did agree to make an effort. It’s been working out pretty well IMO – honestly, I find a lot of discussions just go smoother in person than over video call, it’s great to be able to get lunch and chat with my team regularly, and since we agreed on it ourselves nobody can feel resentful that it’s being imposed from above.

      3. Big Bank*

        My company is fully flex. They want people in at least 2 days a week to get that “in person” benefit. It’s not the worst stance, but .. we are a multinational corporation. My team is scattered across other continents. In or it of the office, I’m still on Skype meetings! Some teams are regional located, so that could make more sense, but they don’t differentiate the policy. Even the local teams are staggering their wfh so guess what? They still met each other on Skype. I get corporates impulses here, but they don’t reflect either the way we work or the way flex time breaks your team apart anyway.

        I’m more than happy to go in on special days: boss or CEO in for special visit, employee appreciation day, brainstorming event, etc. But the current structure just doesn’t make sense and isn’t actually benefiting anyone other than corporate getting to applaud that the facilities are being used again.

    3. Spearmint*

      I’m generally pro-flexibility, but the problem with it in this case is that one of the main benefits of being in the office is being able to interact and work with coworkers in person. So if anyone can just come in whenever they feel like, to me that makes coming into the office less attractive, because it’s likely I’ll be coming into a mostly empty building.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        I’ve seen this floated as the reason to return and it’s the reason my office required us to come back as well, but I have yet to see any tangible benefit to collaborating with my colleagues in person for my particular role and a lot of my colleagues’ roles too. I’m not getting anything out of in-person interactions other than a building resentment that we decided not to look at jobs on a case-by-case basis to see if it made sense for those people to come back.

        1. Smitty*

          Agreed. In my current role, there is no difference in the interactions I have with my team whether I am on-site or remote.

          Of course, I am sure there are industries and positions where there is benefit to being in-person to better collaborate, but I find in my line of work that there is little to no value add in meeting in-person versus virtually.

          Personally I think the positive impact on employee morale by allowing greater flexibility far outweighs the benefits of in-person collaboration.

        2. ferrina*

          I do get some value out of being in office because I sit next to the kitchen and can hear the casual conversations that go on. It’s weird, but part of my job is information services, so eavesdropping helps me better pinpoint what information hasn’t been communicated effectively.

          I’m okay with the flexible days. Our teams tend to coordinate among themselves when they’ll come in, and as a parent it makes it loads easier for me to work around my kids’ various activities.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            The “I overheard a useful piece of information” thing is very real, but it also always just illustrates to me that communication within the org could be better if we’re relying on accidentally overhearing something in order to do our jobs, so for me the issue is that an org should work on improving how it communicates across teams and individuals rather than forcing everyone to come into the office so they might get an extra piece of information by accident. I know that’s not usually realistic, but it’s also not realistic to expect staff to do their jobs like this.

            1. let's not and say we did*

              Oyyyyy. I’m part of a remote team spread out across the state we work for, and THIS is how we find out most of our information. It kills me that we have all these remote work tools (because our team is remote, so yah) and then we don’t even use them. Our boss does a random conference call (on our personal cells) and whoever doesn’t answer isn’t included in the conversation. And then it’s up to you to know that you missed that conversation and seek out the information from someone who was on the call. And you have to hope that they interpret the information for you correctly, and now it’s a game of telephone… I’ll end my rant there.

          2. Spines*

            This struck a chord with me — I’m a total introvert working in tech, so I can do (and have been doing) my job 100% remotely for nearly 3 years now. If the rest of my team were working on-site, though, I would *happily* go back to the office; I don’t want to interact with anyone directly, but being *adjacent* to interactions — overhearing what folks are saying, even just seeing who’s talking with whom, getting a sense of the general vibe — is *incredibly* useful to me.

            My home office is great and comfortable, but whole days can go by without “hearing” anything from anyone, which has made it hard for me to … self-regulate, sometimes.

            As other folks have said, though, I have absolutely ZERO interest in returning to an office only to be on conference calls/Zoom all day ’cause half the team’s off-site.

        3. Quinalla*

          Yeah, we have a select few meetings (think 2-3 times a year) that we want people in person for, but even those we understand if people can’t make them. These have actual value to collaborating in the same room, but many meetings, etc. can be done remotely with little or no downsides, sometimes meetings are better remote if you want focus as you at least don’t have verbal side conversations happening (though sometimes IM side conversations instead). People really need to look at this case-by-case with more scrutiny.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, they’re making us do set days because the whole company line on returning to the office is how great it is for collaboration and interaction and working together. Which is fine if your job relies on that, and I can see why it makes sense to say that teams who work together need to be in the office on the same days every week. But if your job doesn’t involve a lot of face-to-face collaboration (which mine doesn’t; in fact it involves a lot of close reading that is far easier to do in peace and quiet) then it seems a bit pointless to me. Whenever I’ve been in the office since we all started going back, I’ve had to make sure I have enough general admin-type stuff to do because there are just too many interruptions to do my ‘real’ work properly. I’m sure half of it is that I’ve got used to having peace and quiet so it all seems more distracting, but I also think people are being (unintentionally) more distracting in the office because they only have one or two days of face-to-face time.

      3. AnotherJen*

        My husband’s group has “solved” this by an informal arrangement that people who are going to come in do so on Tuesdays. Typically. A few people come in more frequently, others less so, but if you want to catch up with other folks (and you don’t want to arrange something ahead of time), show up on Tuesdays. (Several team members bike in that day, so they’re there for like 5-6 hours and get in 30-40 miles of bike riding.)

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, I’m very fortunate to only have to do 1 day a week in the office. It is required and we have to book a desk if we need one, but they don’t track it and they have never pressured us to come in more often.

    5. Churpies*

      This is where I’m at. I switched divisions at my org (started a month ago) and my new job has *real* flexibility. My last job, we had “flexibility” but there were definite penalties if you weren’t in the office – my boss would consult with whomever was there (even on things that were your sole responsibility), people paid attention to when you came and when you left, and in general people saved up things to talk to you about when you were there in person. I always felt like when I came into the office, I was bound to Butt in Seat and felt bad even just taking a walk throughout the day, even though I was completely underemployed.

      Now I’m coming to the office fairly regularly because I like it, but for example, today I didn’t come in until 10 because I don’t have a meeting until 1 and I wanted to work out and not blow dry my hair. I didn’t have to tell anyone, I didn’t have to justify it to the rest of my team, I just did it.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      This is actually what my office is doing well. We only have 100% remote work arrangements available for a small subset of people, but for everyone else, it’s not really expected that you’ll come in unless there’s a reason to do so. Come in for that quarterly strategy meeting? Yeah. Come in because it’s Wednesday? Nah. Come in a couple days this week to see clients face-to-face? Great. Come in a couple days next week because you’re supposed to be in a couple days every week? Nah. And we’re actually handling space issues in a way that reflects that this is for the long term: people sharing cubes here and there because we don’t expect that we’ll have people in every day, for example.

    7. BasketcaseNZ*

      My work tried to implement a compulsory 2 days a week in-office.
      A few weeks later, they realised that national case numbers weren’t dropping, and in fact, lots of staff were suddenly ill with flu, so rescinded that.

      Even with the mandatory 2 days, lots of people just weren’t. Add in that the work my team have been doing is winding down (due to complete a 4 year programme of work this month), and you’re lucky to see 10 other people in our 65 person section of the office on a busy day, where previously you’d struggle to find a seat.

      The advantage we’ve got is we have always had hybrid (since pre-pandemic sometime at least). Some people are still in every day (because their living situation makes WFH uncomfortable), some people are in once every 2 weeks. Thankfully no one is keeping track.

    8. anonforthis*

      This. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing WFH but what I would like to keep is the flexibility. Before, if I wanted a remote day in addition to the one weekly allotted remote day we got, I would have to prepare a court-level defense for permission. Now I get to decide more on my own terms.

  8. Justin*

    I can provide a sharp contrast. At the job I left in April, they Demanded we come back because it’s How Things Are, and people were mad and just didn’t listen. Now, it was sort of out of our hands (we were contractors for the city and the city went back), but our director didn’t really try. So I left, and everyone else literally chose to go part-time (you can work a full schedule, but you can’t do dependent health coverage; none of them had young kids so they just accepted that). It was, and remains, a mess.

    At my current job, with exceptions for occasional travel/big meetings, we aren’t required to go in at all. But it really is a lack of pressure. Because of that, I choose to go in twice a week, and we do get small incentives like making the office a really attractive environment (lots of goodies and knick knacks). They’re also giving us an extra 150 in travel money a month (which I don’t need but I’m gonna take it, thanks). So, money, and kindness, and grace (ie they don’t monitor what time we arrive if we go in).

    (We have openings…)

    1. Justin*

      I would also say I’d never go in if I had to drive, but I refuse to ever move to where I have to drive, so that’s never going to be relevant to me.

    2. Maggie*

      At my current company most people are required in all the time, regardless of working remotely in the past. There aren’t any new perks, besides all the PPE you could want, and as a result we’ve lost a lot of people (including me hopefully soon). Your current schedule sounds like my ideal; I actually like going in a few days a week but five is too many, and agreed that flexbility and trust being tantamount.

      1. Justin*

        It helps that seeing how my old job fumbled it guided my search.

        They didn’t seem bad at this before covid but this was a new thing and they were weirdly controlling when we were at home bc they didn’t know how to manage without an iron fist. It’s bragging, I guess, but when the only one of your employees who had further professional ambitions thinks it’s not a great place to stay, maybe pay attention. Sucks for them.

      1. Justin*

        Not sure I can effectively throw up a link to our jobs list! But if Alison someday is willing to vet our places as being well-compensated and accessible we can do that.

        I can share the name of where we work if allowed though.

        1. Angry socialist*

          I think you can say the company name and the rest of us can go google for your job listing….

  9. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Our people wanted to come back some of the time, but only if there was an actual purpose. We do a lot of work collaboratively and in teams that’s genuinely easier in person, and we have a lot of in-office perks. But when we tried to let people come in whatever days they wanted, we didn’t get the coordinated overlap that made it worthwhile and people got frustrated. Our biggest complaint when we surveyed was that people don’t want to come into the office just to have zoom meetings anyway.

    Mandatory in-office days (with flexibility if people are sick or have conflicts) has been the most successful for us. We are currently two days in, three days optional. We prioritize lunches, events, etc for the mandatory days. We make common sense exceptions but put extra pressure on management to be in person, present, and accessible on these days. It’s working well.

    1. Llama Llama*

      This was the big problem at my previous employer. They wanted us to come back 3 days a week for “collaboration” but I would often go into the office and almost no one else would be there (there were only 12 of us). Those who were higher up felt they didn’t need to follow their own rules, and since many of us also did a lot of field work and had complicated schedules there was no overlap between the people who needed to collaborate. It was a mess and no one wanted “mandatory in office days” to fix it (it would have made scheduling field work a pain, which would have hurt some people’s job performance). In the end the whole place was a mess for many reasons and I peaced out to a job that’s almost fully remote.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “Those who were higher up felt they didn’t need to follow their own rules”

        This is where any policy falls apart, especially one that could be controversial.

        1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          At my old job we were supposed to come in 3 days a week, which I did for 3 months. I only saw my manager in his office once the whole time. I spent all day on Teams calls anyway, as half of my team was out of state or our of the country even. I finally just stopped coming in, and it was fine because he wasn’t there to notice, which is what everyone else did too.

        2. Charlotte*

          I think sometimes the decision makers miss the ways their privilege makes them misunderstand what the weight of different “perks” are.

          For instance:
          My department assistant: pays $10 to park when she has to go in a few times a month. Most people having to go in are assistant level. This is a huge deal for her budget. When she’s at home that’s money saved.
          Our higher ups have free parking and $10 is never going to change their circumstances even if they did have to pay. They also never have to go to the office. The office is not easily accessible by public transportation. It is also located in an extremely expensive area.

          For me, doing a load of laundry, or running the dishwasher, at random times of the day has made life exponentially easier for me. My manager has a housecleaner. This isn’t a problem for her either way.

          So, for me, it’s hard to imagine any swag or free food ever being a bigger perk than being able to start a load of laundry in between meetings and having time to relax in the evening with a shorter to-do list. For my boss, I’m sure the swag and food would be considered better perks than something that wasn’t a hardship before. For our assistant these policies seriously makes or break her budget, especially in these times.

          1. Rocks are neat*

            It seems to me part of the solution would be to give the free parking to those who actually show up to the office! Just a thought.

            I think your illustration of people in different income brackets and what constitutes a ‘perk’ is excellent.

        3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          YUP.
          I mean, I’m pretty sure senior leadership at the CDC aren’t coming into the office all that much…

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        We are currently suffering from this problem as well, though without the higher-ups not coming in. They’re here and many want everyone else to be here, but, in my industry, the higher-ups often have stay-at-home spouses and enough money to get the help they need while the middling/lower people are still struggling with childcare, school, etc. and strongly prefer remote work and flexibility.

        Our leadership has been very mindful about how tone-deaf other organizations have been (and are also dealing with a competitive labor market) but area also dealing with complaining from the higher-ups who want everyone to be required to come back in because that’s what they prefer.

      3. Italian Beef*

        Our founder announced that remote work is “not allowed” on the same day he announced that he would be spending more than eight weeks over the summer working from his vacation home. Management has taken to posting on LinkedIn about the joys of in-person collaboration… while they are all working remotely. It’s all especially absurd because our field requires us to travel to our clients’ offices regularly, so we are well-practiced at coordinating with our colleagues while in different physical locations. But as a junior employee, I have spent the past year fearing discipline if I dared to work remotely, only to come into the office and find that almost no one was there.
        My last day is next week.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Good for you for getting out! That’s absolutely ridiculous they would implement these rules and then flout them right in your faces like this. It’s so disrespectful.

      4. Ding Dong*

        Yes, same, and this is also a big reason why mine is a former, not current, employer. Dept head kept saying we would all benefit from being in the office at the same time… but it became clear the only “benefit” was to her, because she felt more able to micromanage everyone when she could walk around the desks instead of doing her own work. (But, of course, she was hardly ever there!) If management extols the benefits of in-person work, they have to commit to it themselves AND the benefit to the employees has to be real. Meanwhile, my former dept has turned over more than 100%!

    2. hamsterpants*

      Yep, as much as I hate mandatory anything, if there is an actual tangible business reason to have people in person, then companies should actually set and enforce mandatory in-office days. Not enforcing it just drives home that it is a perfunctory, empty gesture. Yes they might lose employees over it — so businesses need to decide just how critical in-person attendance is, and establish a consistent standard, and live with the consequences.

      1. Captain Swan*

        ** No quoting in articles please Allison**

        Starting sometime in the next couple of weeks, I will start going back into the office 2-3 a week. It’s been then plan for us to start going back this Fall for around 6 months.
        I’m looking forward to it. My house is not built for permanent WFH and I can have big monitors and such that just don’t fit at home. I’ll be able to talk in person to my leadership, so lots of benefits.
        It helps that my commute is rough 7 minutes one way. Plus, I can pickup and drop off daughter at the local transit station to go to her campus since I drive by it anyway to get to the office.

    3. Green great dragon*

      Almost everyone in my office is happy to come in for arranged, face-to-face meetings or anything else that truly benefits from being in. But that’s not enough for management, who want us to come in at least 2 days a week. A lot of people are seriously fed up with it, coming in just to have zoom meetings anyway (since a lot of the people we talk to are other branches or other companies) or doing individual work, and having to do these in a noisy office environment rather than in the quiet of their home offices.

      We’ve also lost weeks of time to people being off with covid and other illnesses. I’m sure some of those would have happened anyway, but probably far fewer.

    4. mskyle*

      Yes, this is the problem for me… I’m a software developer and I go in to the office sometimes, but when I do hardly anyone else is there and enough of my team has moved out of the area and gone permanently remote that we will have all of our meetings via zoom for the foreseeable future. I live by myself and I definitely miss the casual interactions with coworkers I used to have in the office but those just don’t exist anymore!

      So, yeah, it’s nice to have free snacks and air conditioning, and I’ll often go in to the office if I’m going downtown for another reason, but spending 30+ minutes each way going to the office to sit at a different desk than I sit at at home doesn’t feel particularly worthwhile in and of itself.

    5. online millenial*

      This would be my ideal–having one in-office day a week (or every other week) when everybody’s in the office so we can have in-person meetings, team lunches, etc. HOWEVER given that there’s still a pandemic going and my employer just “strongly encourages” masking, I have zero interest in sitting in a cube farm with 14 other people right now. If COVID ever gets properly under control, this would be a great setup. But that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Hard same.
        In the before times, I liked the office and hated WFH, though the latter is probably because I didn’t have a proper space set up. I have no interest in risking my health for this.

    6. Stretchy Pants*

      Yes, this is how I feel – give me a purpose! We have been back at the office full time for over a year in corporate but other corporate departments have different rules. The main thing I want from leadership at this point is ONE REAL REASON why I have to be here every single day when other employees with substantially similar jobs do not. It drives me crazy. Leadership has been completely unable to answer this for over a year. It makes me lose a lot of faith in their decision making ability.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yup, we’ve been told the return is about collaboration, but there’s no evidence we’re not collaborating well WFH.
        They either have no idea what our jobs are like or they’re not telling us the real reasons.

    7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, the whole thing smacks of just wanting to “get back to normal” because people are uncomfortable with change / don’t want to do the work of figuring out a better way / want to pretend the pandemic is over.

    8. Government worker*

      I work in a government job and we need some level of department staffing to help walk ins. We took a similar, although more restrictive approach. One day a week my whole department is in and we prioritize meetings that lend themselves to in person interaction (high likelihood of conflict, brainstorming, etc) and then we have a rotation for the other days. The rotation avoids anyone having to work every Monday or Friday. Part of what makes this work is my team’s willingness to swap office days to accommodate each other when we have an in person meeting not scheduled on our day in or having a contractor coming to the house. Our current expected level of in office staffing feels like overkill to may of us but prior to the pandemic I never expected to be able to routinely work from home so I am happy with the situation.

  10. Nekussa*

    Our company doesn’t even have a full office any more, just a coworking space downtown that is available for those who do want office space. I would only consider going in if there were a day where a bunch of coworkers agreed they would also come in to the office. Otherwise I don’t see the point of spending the money and time to commute in only to spend all day in online meetings anyway, which I could have done at home.

    1. kbeers0su*

      Agreed. I have a remote team spread out all over our region. We all mostly work from home. So why would I put on real clothes and drive an hour to sit alone in my office to communicate with everyone else who is at their homes? I have intentionally scheduled dates where we get together to talk at the office, but other than that, the only reason I come to the office is to check our mail and let the security guards know we still exist.

      1. Lexi Lynn*

        Given that I work with clients in 2 countries and all US timezones, having neetings in the office is worse than having everyone remote. When you have a quarter of the meeting in a room and everyone else on 5lthe phone, it’s hard for the phone people to hear and participate.

  11. Laura*

    My company has one day a week that everybody is asked to be in. Everyone is in on Tuesdays, I think they chose that day because we’ve always had whole-company training Tuesday mornings, and they supply pastries and fruit for breakfast that day. A few people go in every day, some people go in a couple more days a week, there’s no pressure – but they have been clear that individual team leaders can ask people to be in more often if required. That hasn’t come up on my team yet, but because they’re generally so flexible I won’t mind if I have to go in for specific meetings etc. And I do trust that they’d only ask for a good reason, which I think is a key factor.

    1. NewJobNewGal*

      Yep, that was my big issue-> I would have been okay going into the office if there was a reason.
      My office asked for the same thing, everyone comes in the same day, plus another day of the employee’s choice. The problem was that there wasn’t enough physical room for everyone to be in the office. There wasn’t enough parking or workspaces. Some of us were supposed to sit on beanbags and picnic tables. (I’m a grow-up with real work to do, thank you.)
      And my team was out of state, so I would still be on zoom calls. It felt demeaning that I was supposed to sit on a beanbag and be on zoom calls just for my executive’s comfort.
      But if my team was local, and I had regular meetings with people in the office, and I had a chair to sit in, then I would have been okay with 2 days a week in office.

    2. Ashley*

      I could have written this comment about my company, except our days are Wednesday! And this was after a very slow ramping up process. After exclusive WFH from March 2020 to Sept 2021, management requested that employees come in one day per month. Then when Delta hit, they became less strict about it. Then mid July 2022, they required us to be in every second Wednesday. After a month of that, they decided it would be every week, because the days we were all in were too jammed up with everyone trying to get in person meetings booked. Now things are spread out more. We’ve been able to have a couple of retirement parties and a baby shower in person after being virtual for so long. Plus we have new people on the team and so I’ve appreciated having the in person opportunity to provide training. Prior to the shutdowns, we could WFH 3 days a week, so if I only have to go in 1 day a week going forward, I will be happy.

      It would take a LOT of money to get me full time in the office again.

  12. hamsterpants*

    How about an actual business reason to come in, a tangible career benefit? Usually when I come in, I still don’t see people in person because they live in a different state. I’m also usually less productive because bored people drop by to chat about non-work items.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Nod. Like they can say I’ll bump into someone who’ll change my career but that’s never happened to me. I like to chat but the trade off is too much and there’s no actual medical condition called ” my body doesn’t do gaslighting.”

    2. High Score!*

      An actual business reason shared with employees. My employer says we should “act like owners”, and it’s a big company so I was skeptical at first, but they are very open with us, they allow employees to work together to determine when they need to come in or travel or get training or whatever. To an extent, we even choose our own teams. I’m shocked at how well it works.

    3. Eyes Kiwami*

      This is the thing I don’t see any company actually considering. No one has actually measured and valued “collaboration”, no one is evaluating workers who are good at it and paying them more for it. So the only people who work onsite are those who have to, and those who prefer to. Everyone is trying to lure workers back without lowering the risks or increasing the rewards, just cajoling and demanding and being confused why it doesn’t work.

  13. Jenny*

    I’m in a situation where I don’t think I’d want to switch jobs if we went back full time, but I would be VERY unhappy.

    We’ve been in the office one day per week since April. Right now, my main concern is people are getting really whiny about that 1 day per week and I’m hoping that they don’t ruin it for the rest of us. One day a week is actually enjoyable, but more than that? I wouldn’t like it.

    I do laugh because I am FAR less productive on my one day in the office. They want us in the office to collaborate. I spend a lot of time “collaborating” by getting coffee with coworkers, going out to lunches (which are longer than normal), etc.

    1. Roland*

      Those things are the kind of relationship builders that really create community and are what I miss most about working in the office, so I would say they’re a great use of time :)

      1. Grey Squirrel*

        100% agree. I started a new job after the pandemic where they used to be in-office and are now fully remote. I love working remotely, but I do feel a bit disconnected to my coworkers (especially with people in our division but outside of our specific team). I would never want people to come in just to socialize but… I do miss that aspect of work.

      2. nonprofiteer*

        And I think that is what makes some leaders nervous. People tend to leave much easier if they don’t have strong relationships at work. “Collaborate” is a word you often hear but I think they really would like people chatting in the hall and going for coffee.

      3. hamsterpants*

        I agree to a point, but 2 hours of socializing per day is excessive, and it’s easily that much when I’m in office.

        I also have great, personal relationships with people I have never met in person.

  14. Pidgeot*

    I think expectation of reduced hours would prompt me to come in to the office in person. Meaning, if I usually work an 8 hour day, and they want me to come in to the office and it would take 1.5 hours of commute time, I want the expectation to be that I work 6.5 hours in the office and that the 1.5 of commute time is part of my workday. What I like about WFH is that I don’t need to take that 1.5 hours of commute out of my life. But if work was ok with me working only 6.5 hours/day (without reducing my salary) to accommodate the commute time, I’d come in.

    1. Eat My Squirrel*

      This is the biggest thing keeping me at home. I work 4 10 hour days, and with the commute, the 10 hour day becomes a 12 hour day and I have literally no time to myself that day.

    2. ferrina*

      Yes! Now that we know that a commute isn’t required (for certain jobs), asking us to invest our own time in a commute feels selfish for a company to do. That’s time that they aren’t paying for, time that I could be spending with my kids, doing life admin/housekeeping, having hobbies and seeing friends…the stuff I don’t get to do with my 2 hr commute.

      1. kbeers0su*

        THIS. So much this. I took my current job in summer 2020 when there was no established office, because it was a new role and everyone was WFH so it didn’t matter. Then I find out that they selected an office that made my commute 1.25 hours EACH WAY. Why should I spend 2.5 hours in the car every day, and charge it against my time? I wasn’t consulted about the location of the office or allowed any input. (So I told my supervisor I would not commute more than 2 days a week. Luckily, he’s been supportive because he also didn’t have much say in the decision on location.) If this ever changes, I will quit. It’s not worth losing my time over (for sleep, to see my kids, to be able to cook an actual meal, to get an earlier start on my weekend, etc.).

    3. J*

      My partner occasionally still goes in for meetings with out of town visitors and that’s how he insists on treating his day now. He doesn’t schedule in person meetings until 30 minutes after his start time so his commute is in the work window versus coming on his clock. He’s lucky that his boss doesn’t nickel and dime his time and looks the other way for her team doing this but it’s not the company policy. If they took that away, I think he’d stop taking any in person meetings and they’d never see him again.

    4. Data Bear*

      On the days when I come into the office (currently one day a week, maybe increasing to 2 if there’s another day when people I need to talk to will be here), I never leave home before 9 am and I always leave work before 4:30 at the latest. That drastically reduces the degree to which I have to deal with traffic.

      I still need to either make up the hours, but having a good WFH setup makes that a lot easier to do. Or I just take PTO (we get a *lot* of PTO) and call it good…

  15. gef*

    my company is having a huge issue where lower-level staff (including me, although i prefer going into the office 2-3 days/week, i don’t like FT WFH) are mandated to come into the office X days per week (dependent on department), but senior folks and leadership across the board simply never come in at all. the disparity is causing huge morale issues, which are completely legitimate IMO. if the company wants people to come in, leadership needs to be at the forefront and explicitly model it or else it just comes off as out of touch and super unfair.

    1. Justin*

      My old boss demanded people go in, but she didn’t, and it turned out the higher ups were, let’s just say, one demographic, and those who went in were a different one. Wasn’t a good look.

    2. Gracely*

      This. As much as I hate that my great great grandboss wants everyone back in the office like before, to their credit, they are here every day, and so is great grandboss.

    3. shruggie*

      Hell, this was a problem in my job before the pandemic. NOW, to be expected to be in the office when the voice from on high won’t deign to grace us with their presence? Pfft.

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      From a sheer duties perspective I can see how lower level staff may have duties that can’t be done remotely (or full time remote) where higher level staff this is not the case, but it is SUCH a bad look.

      1. gef*

        this has definitely been part of the conversation at my company! and i kinda get it, but i do come down on the side of, if management wants it, they gotta model it. same as with things like workplace professionalism, DEI stuff, etc. – top down is the only way. so yeah i totally agree with you!

    5. Esmeralda*

      Oh yeah, we have the same issue. The PTB in our division have grudgingly, after our bosses fought very very hard for it, agreed to a 3(office)-2(remote) hybrid for this year. We had data that showed we were incredibly productive with 3/2, with 2/3, with 1/4, with fully remote (during the depths of the pandemic), and that our students still prefer virtual meetings — even on our in-office days, most students make zoom appts. But but but! the students!!

      Anyway, they finally agreed, but they get no gratitude for it, because they made it so frickin hard to get, AND they’re almost never around. They’re working from other states most days. Family reasons, which I totally get — it would be nice if THEY would get that we want the same.

      Every time they said no to hybrid schedules, we lost more staff. Everyone on staff is grumpy — we are all pitching in to cover the vital pieces of work, plus a good percentage of us are serving on search committees. (And that’s been no fun, because we’re getting fewer applications, and the really good candidates get lots of other offers where WFH or hybrid is not a stupid fight.)

      Personally, if they take away hybrid at the end of the year, I will retire, kick back a few months, then pick up a new fully remote job. I have one lined up. Less pay, but less hassle. Worth it, especially w retirement payouts.

  16. shruggie*

    More money would make me consider it, but it’s hard to even put my finger on a realistic number, considering how tight-laced my company is being with raises, COL adjustments, etc, even when employees’ income is going down due to inflation. Remote work is free, and something people actively want, and a way to retain workers. Just… why fight it this hard? I don’t understand the issue.

    1. ferrina*

      I want to say more money would help, but honestly it would be awful long-term. If Bobby had a lower productivity level than me but was paid more because he went in to the office, I would be pretty annoyed.

    2. Meghan R*

      Companies paid lots of money for the office space and they don’t want to see it wasted? Or managers don’t know how to manage when their employees aren’t right over the cube wall for them to watch.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Right. It’s the easiest thing to do and, at least where I work, it costs them NOTHING to do it. Nothing. We already had laptops and docking stations, so we can all work remotely. Some of my coworkers have long commutes, childcare, eldercare…why make life MORE difficult for these people? They have other options.

      Short-sighted, inflexible dumbassery.

    4. A Name*

      I think for retire-in-a-year money, I’d go back in one day a week to my current office (one-hour commute each way, coworkers I mostly like). Assuming the pandemic was actually over, and not over-because-we-said-it’s-over.

    5. The Real Fran Fine*

      Remote work is free, and something people actively want, and a way to retain workers. Just… why fight it this hard?

      Right. My company has always had at least a third of their workforce working permanently from home and dispersed around the globe pre-pandemic (we’re in tech). When the pandemic hit and our offices around the globe shut down, they put together a task force to monitor productivity levels across the organization as well as to investigate the possibilities of expanding remote work to a greater number of employees. What they found is, our company productivity levels actually increased these last two years, so they told everyone who was office based that they could decide when (or even if) to come back into the office as long as they worked out a schedule with their managers or took the appropriate steps with HR to go permanent remote if they chose not to come back at all.

      Now, the messaging has changed again to no one has to come back in if they don’t want to and we can work from anywhere in our respective countries – no restrictions. I guess they figured since they don’t pay what the FAANG companies pay, offering this level of flexibility will help with not only retaining their current workforce, but also attracting new hires that care more about work/life balance than money (and to be clear – they do pay well, just not the super high salaries of an Amazon or Google).

  17. Pumpkin215*

    I have seen a lot of lures, and none of them are working. Free Coffee Day! Free Continental Breakfast Day! Free Pretzel Day!

    Then they upped their game to “Free Redbull and come see some adoptable puppies!” They literally had a puppies in the office. They almost got me with that one. If it had been “Free Wine and Kittens”, I would have burned rubber to get there.

    I have to go in one day a week but I don’t want to do more than that. It is a really nice building, with plenty of meeting space, cafeteria with good food, coffee shop, gym, etc. As nice as that is, I still prefer yoga pants and my cat as my only coworker. I get my own bathroom, full kitchen and no commute. They really can’t beat that.

    1. londonedit*

      Our place is trying similar things (though no actual puppies yet!) It’s stuff like decent free coffee and snacks, lunchtime events for staff who are in the office, competitions, free copies of some of our biggest new books, etc. Plus endless emails telling everyone how much the people who are back in the office are loving it and how fantastic it is for collaboration with colleagues. Hmm. We’re meant to be in for a set number of days a week but over the summer people have largely ignored it. I have a feeling many more people will start going in once the weather gets colder, though, because with the price of energy the way it is in the UK at the moment (if you’re unaware, imagine how totally insane the price of energy could be, then add about 200% more insanity – people on decent incomes are going to end up unable to heat their homes this winter and people on low incomes are literally going to die, and that’s not even hyperbole) the cost of commuting is going to be massively offset by the savings you’ll make if you’re not having to put the heating on for those 8-10 hours a day.

      1. Higher Ed Cubicle Farmer*

        Having grown up poor and spent the first quarter of my adult life at or below the poverty line (and sometimes living off work party leftovers), I do appreciate free anything. It takes a lot to make me pass up free food.

        But lunch on the boss’ dime has a different flavor when the hidden cost is having to sit your immune-compromised self down and take off your mask to eat at the break room table with the people who brag about coming to work ill.

        1. Emma*

          Totally get that. The extent of the UK energy crisis is extreme – I’ve heard people talking about getting their elderly parents to move in with them over winter, so they can split the bill for heating the house and running the fridge; small businesses are seeing their energy bills jump from four to five figures per year. But always, there are people for whom these ‘hacks’ aren’t accessible and it’s… gonna be really bad if you’re in that position.

      2. Tau*

        Yyyeah not needing to heat my home during daytime in the winter could be really useful, considering. (I’m in Germany, so…)

        Also, I’m pretty sure the air conditioning brought some people into the office this summer! Because we’ve been getting heat we are in no way set up for in recent years and pretty much no private home here has A/C.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      I’m with you on “free wine and kittens.” And there’d better be cheese pairings.

      Anything less feels patronizing.

      1. Properlike*

        But wouldn’t adopting said puppies or kittens then make employees even LESS likely to want to come in? Someone hasn’t thought this through.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Free coffee? Is this fancy coffee made by a barista, or standard coffee from a drip coffee maker? I ask because I have never worked in an office where the standard stuff wasn’t free. Offering it as an occasional (forgive me) perk would be kind of pathetic.

      1. LegalEagle*

        I was just telling someone today how the free drip coffee in my office is a huge perk to working from the office! I spent years working in government where the coffee situation was “sometimes the elected official you work for brings in a plastic bag full of loose k-cups and you make that last as long as you can” so having an office where the coffee and milk is always fully stocked and I can take as much as I want is awesome. But I agree, if they were just offering it one day, that wouldn’t be enough to get me in the office, but having it here all the time is a good perk for the three days a week I do come in.

      2. Katie*

        Pre pandemic the coffee onsite was some extremely generic garbage stuff. Now that there are so little people in the office it’s Starbucks brand (so just slightly garbage ). This has been one of their bragging points.

      3. Pumpkin215*

        I completely understand! To clarify, we have the “regular” free coffee machine on each floor. This was coffee from the attached coffee shop that is open to the public.

        Think $6 fancy coffee drinks that are totally worth it. Every Tuesday I get my “Campfire Cold Brew” which is marshmallow and graham cracker flavored.

      4. londonedit*

        It’s barista stuff for us. We’ve always had free tea, coffee and milk but now there’s a barista coming in every day with a posh coffee machine so you don’t have to spend £3 at Pret on a latte.

    4. HahahahaVeeon*

      Yep. Hard to replace the sleeping later, no traffic, being able to cook at lunch if I want, and having so much more flexibility and time. I would have more demands than it would be practical for my employers: clothing allowance, gas/tolls/wear and tear allowance, count commute time as time at work, dog daycare om site, food to order, subsidized housecleaning discounts, and may even reduced work time but no salary reduction. Pretty sure they’re just gonna say ok fine remote work it is then!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        In fairness, once you take into account the extra expenses incurred by travel to the office, the employees undoubtedly were paying good money for that covid.

  18. glitter writer*

    My company opened in January, 2020 and so had to shutter its offices almost immediately after launch. We survived and thrived as a company, and have grown significantly, but it definitely built a strong work-from-home culture. My managers, my peers, and all but one of my direct reports are in different cities, states, or countries from me and so I’ve never felt much urge to spend any time commuting just to… not see them.

    We got the leases for the spaces for cheap, too, because 2021 had great incentives for businesses to sign space agreements, but I really wonder if they’re going to bother renewing in any of our three U.S. locations, all of which are expensive cities, when those leases expire.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I know my company let a lot of our leases lapse and will probably continue to do so while only keeping our majorly visible locations (i.e., company headquarters in different countries).

    1. Pidgeot*

      Yes! What I want most of anything is more time – time not spent commuting, time to sleep, time with my family.

    2. High Score!*

      Make it a 24 hour work week, 3 8 hour days and it’s a deal!
      We have a lot more productivity tools then we did even 30 years ago when I started my career. So much automation, AI, robotics, etc… We worked so hard on that stuff so that the next generation would have it easier. Not so corporations could work is the same or more for even more profit.
      Let the workers have the work life balance that we’ve worked for. I paid so much of my life to make a better future and I want to see it.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Pensions look good to me. NOT 401(k) but legit, guaranteed, lifelong, pensions that vest in 5 years.

  19. Spooncake*

    I don’t think anything could convince me to go back to in-person work, unless accessibility improves a lot- the option to still work remotely when my disabilities make it difficult to get to work, improved accessibility both on public transport and in corporate buildings, etc. And of course the attitudes of people in positions of power, who have to accept that if they want everyone back in person, they’re going to have to make an effort themselves to make it possible, especially since we’ve been going through a mass disabling event. If people want me there in person, they need to do more than the bare minimum so that I can go in every day without being sick and exhausted- and therefore basically useless as a productive employee.

    1. StrikingFalcon*

      Remote work was such an equalizer for me. When everyone was remote, no one could even tell I am disabled. In person, it’s the first and most obvious thing about me.

      I only go in occasionally, but when I do, it’s frankly exhausting. It takes me three days to fully recover. Nothing a company could offer will make that easier. I simply cannot do in person work more often, and would vastly prefer to do it less.

      Plus, I’m on immunosuppressants so I don’t get to pretend the pandemic is over.

  20. Ground Control*

    I’m medically vulnerable so if my company wanted to get me back in the office they’d have to implement policies and safety measures that would keep me safe. We’ve never had a vaccine mandate, they got rid of the masking policy as soon as legally possibly (and it was never actually enforced anyways), and have done nothing to implement improve air purification systems or other facilities safety measures even though I work in the medical field and they know better. Showing how little they care about people like me gives me zero incentive to care about them.

    1. BrooklynBlondie*

      So much this. Most offices are simply not safe for those of us who are high-risk. (COVID is not over, people!!!! )

    2. many bells down*

      I have been going in, but I have been insistent on continuing to mask. I convinced them to buy CO2 monitors, and showed them how to make Cori Rosenthal boxes.
      “Compassion in human relations” is one of our core tenets and I’m gonna make darn sure we abide by that one.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is an excellent point. I think if our place hadn’t enacted a mask/vaccine mandate and a ‘you do not come to work sick!’ policy I doubt I’d still be here.

      The firms that had the ‘if you’re high risk then too bad for you but we’re not doing anything’ kind of attitude are the ones that could offer millions and I still wouldn’t work there.

      We’re disabled, not disposable.

    4. Midge*

      My work had what I thought were very good Covid mitigation measures last year: they did HVAC updates, mandated vaccines and boosters, required masking, and required weekly testing. Then in the spring and summer, masking became optional, and testing became optional before it was discontinued entirely. They spent a lot of time last year telling us it was ok to come back to the office because of all the safety measures they’ve taken.

      I definitely feel more vulnerable going back to the office now than I did a year ago.

    5. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yes, this. I’m freelance now and would only consider in-office work if they had good health and safety protocols.

    6. J*

      Also medically vulnerable and I’d agree. My partner goes into the office for meetings but he’s masked 100% of the time. They comment on it to him how weird he is for masking. People constantly invite him to lunch meetings but our household doesn’t eat indoors with members who aren’t in our household so he declines or sits but doesn’t eat which garners more comments. They ask him to present in person for a 5% in person/95% virtual meeting and then complain he’s masked and not able to be clearly heard.

      So many workplaces have not only implemented safety policies, they seek to make it very uncomfortable for people who mask. Every Monday he’s a ball of anxiety trying to see if he’ll be asked to go into the office on his scheduled Tuesday and he’s been given exposure notices more times than not. He struggles more and more even with his average 20 hours a month in the office and it’s part of why we’re seeking some household changes to allow him the freedom to apply for different jobs.

  21. CTA*

    For my team, we are more productive. We also found that a lot of in-person meetings didn’t have to be in-person or didn’t need to happen at all. A few co-workers will come on-site for one day a week, but a lot of them had to stop because they kept having Covid exposure scares and stayed home so as not to spread infection. Or there was an increase in Covid cases in our city, so folks stayed home. I’m a fully remote employee and I’ve seen my employer move toward preferring new hires to be local. I don’t understand it because a lot of teams are continuing to work from home. So they want new hires to commit to relocating when they are just going to be WFH for a lot of the time? And try explaining that you have fully remote employees (hired during the 2020-2021 period of the pandemic) that are not required to relocate.

  22. Former Young Lady*

    I’d consider going back onsite if it meant a substantial pay increase and a private office. My productivity is much higher without people dropping by to share their stream-of-consciousness at all hours. Shared touchdown space in a high-traffic hallway, or hotdesking in some open-plan wasteland, is not an option.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “people dropping by to share their stream-of-consciousness”

      I believe the term of art for this is “spontaneous collaboration” and it is, we are assured, a critical business function.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        *Snort!*

        In my old department, it was more like “spontaneous combustion” — someone coming to accounting to yell, or cry, because we’d told them they couldn’t do a fraud they really wanted to do.

    2. I would prefer not to*

      Oh my god, yes to this.

      I constantly hear people describe this as a benefit of office working. “You can drop by someone’s desk and ask for things for a quick chat.” Yes, and one person’s “quick chat” is another person’s highly annoying distraction. It only takes a few of them to throw the day completely out.

      Part of why I’m often more productive at home is definitely because I’m so much more in control of my priorities. And I’m best placed to prioritise my own workload!

  23. Red Lines with Wine*

    We have a 25% return rate right now but most people are coming in 1 day at week, 3 at most. Unless everyone is back, it makes no sense to drive to work to be on Zoom when I can do that from home. The benefits of WFH really do outweigh the perceived in-person collaboration, IMHO.

    Yesterday I spent over an hour in traffic for a commute that normally takes 20 minutes, I’m rethinking my hybrid situation. As much as I enjoy the free food and the onsite gym, the ding to my mental health may not be worth it!

  24. JMR*

    My company doubled in size during the pandemic, from ~200 to ~400 employees, and the company started running out of space to put them. Many new employees were not assigned office/cubicle space, but lots of people were working from home anyway. Starting in mid-2021, the company started trying to bring certain groups/functions back on-site but realized that many of the newer hires did not like coming in because they had nowhere to work. They therefore decided to do a complete office redesign to create additional space. They tore down large groups of cubicles and replaced them with open desk areas that were a quarter of the size and fit four times as many people. The result: Everyone hates the open desk plan with a passion and a vengeance, so everyone continues to work from home. Prior to the redesign, people with assigned space worked on-site and people who didn’t have an assigned space worked from home. Now, people who still have their offices/cubicles continue to work on-site, and people who now have an assigned desk continue to work from home, because everyone hates the desks. I don’t even want to think about how much money they spent on the redesign, and there are no more people on-site than there were this time last year.

    1. online millenial*

      Ha, my employer spent I don’t know how many thousands of dollars on a bunch of lockers to store our stuff in while we’re hotdesking and on a desk reservation system. The lockers have never been touched, and the desk reservation software is so bad and user-unfriendly that I don’t think anyone uses it either. So much money wasted.

  25. Nairn*

    Unfortunately my company just told everyone we are coming back starting next week. They haven’t made any exceptions for things like childcare and because they are such a large employer for this area they get hundreds of applicants for every job so they don’t care if anyone quits over it. We weren’t offered any incentives, just told we are coming back unless a public health lockdown happens again.

    1. Carlee*

      Which isn’t exactly unfair or unreasonable. Your original condition of employment was being in the office daily… it was just interrupted by a 2.5 year pandemic.

      I honestly think there’ll just be a fairly major realignment of the workforce – folks who want to work remotely will (and should) get remote jobs, while those who don’t mind going into the office daily will (and should) shift to firms that expect it. Enough with moaning on both sides!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Their original conditions of employment were offered when you could find childcare spots and schools didn’t send kids home on no notice because of an outbreak in the classroom or you didn’t have to quarantine your kid who’s too young to stay home alone for more vacation days than you have available.

        Trying to pretend like it’s January 2020, everything’s totally normal, and pointing at your pre-pandemic job conditions is not a good look for employers, especially when their only reason for demanding in-person work is “because we told you so”. The reason some organizations have not been so quick to insist everyone return and start handing out pink slips is that they can’t afford to lose the talent.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          Well said!

          I know we all went into COVID-19 thinking “OK, this is temporary, and we’ll adjust to it, and then we’ll go back to normal.” We all took our jobs home to our kitchen tables on zero notice, figuring it’d blow over in a couple weeks, maybe kill a few very unlucky people, maybe infect one or two folks we knew.

          We no longer live in that world, and we can’t pretend our way back to it.

          Workers adapted to a brand-new reality overnight; employers have now had plenty of time to adjust as well.

      2. Eyes Kiwami*

        It’s very weird to pretend like the ongoing pandemic, in which literally everyone’s everyday lives were violently disrupted, has not fundamentally changed things!

        The pandemic is still ongoing, so offices are still asking you to risk your life for your job.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Go back in and begin your job hunt. Yes, they are a large employer in your area, but the beauty of seeking remote work is that this no longer matters.

    3. Generic Name*

      A friend of mine worked for a major national corporation that just told people to come back to the office today, no exceptions. She has decided to retire early.

  26. L-squared*

    I find it interesting hearing about places where its “not working”, as my company just mandated it and will fire people who won’t come in. I wish we had the option to just refuse lol

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      We can’t afford to just fire people – many of them are not easy to replace (require specialized certification/education/experience and the market for those particular skills is *very* competitive right now), which would leave us in a position to not be able to complete the work we have, much less do it well or take on more work. Even if we had the resources to fully train new people in those specialized areas (and some are very, very niche), we certainly don’t have the time to dedicate to the training and ramp-up time they’d need to be successful.

      For the positions that are more fungible, some people have elected to leave rather than come in on a hybrid schedule, and one of my colleagues lost two people on their team who refused to be vaccinated or follow the organization’s health and safety guidance.

      1. Emma*

        Yep. My cousin’s employer required everyone to go back to full time in office work, but he has a difficult to find skillset, and is now the only person qualified to do his job because they made everyone else with the same skillset redundant. So he’s just ignoring the no WFH mandate and continues to work from his parents’ spare room on the other side of the country. He hasn’t been fired yet, but if they do fire him they’ll be in trouble and he won’t struggle to get another job.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      In Ireland, legislation has been written to back up the demand for remote working, so that makes a difference too. Employers don’t HAVE to agree to it, but there are only certain grounds on which they can refuse.

      If it interests anybody, this is the situation: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/employment_rights_and_conditions/health_and_safety/working_at_home.html#:~:text=The%20draft%20Right%20to%20Request,policy%20on%20working%20from%20home. To be honest, there are enough reasons that employers could probably find a reason to refuse if they wanted to, but it can’t just be “because we MISS you all.”

    3. fhqwhgads*

      If 50% of you all refused, would they fire that many all at once? The places where it’s “not working” to bring people back are places in the situation where that kind of proportion would quit over it/they can’t fire that many people at once and still function.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Start looking for a new job. You don’t have to accept an offer if you don’t want, but you might find that you have more options than you know.

    5. Another Person*

      Yeah, they can’t fire the 50% of our office who decided not to come in. We do very specialized work with specialized qualifications. And we know it.

  27. Persnickity*

    I go in once per week for a staff meeting and “collaborating” that could probably be done on line. If I were required to start going in any more frequently than that, outside of one off requests for a true need to be on site, I would look for a new job even if it paid less. WFH has had a huge positive impact on my physical and mental health plus I am just as effective at my job from home.

  28. Lurker*

    In order, increase of salary by 50-100%, flexible work hours, an assigned desk, cubical walls so we have some privacy/ cut down on the noise, and snacks/ drinks freely available. The loss of time due to commuting is really the worst, now if I was paid more and could afford a meal subscription service, a cleaning service once a week, and to pay a trainer to maximize workouts, I would be willing to spend the time commuting again.

  29. Bird Lady*

    For those saying an actual reason or a tangible part of the mission, yes, this is what brought me back to the office. While I was more productive during WFH in terms of quantity (and quality) of work, I do love meeting the people associated with the nonprofit I work for. The donors, the volunteers, and the visitors are all wonderful to engage with. My job could easily be done at home, but I really do like meeting the people we serve. It helps me connect better with the organization and the job.

    1. Spearmint*

      This is the main thing that has brought me back (though super part time). I felt very lonely and disconnected at work after not seeing anyone in person for over a year. And I’m an introvert who isn’t really close with anyone at my current job, but it’s still nice to see real people and feel connected to something other than a screen.

      1. nona*

        Ditto – as a single introvert that doesn’t have a roommate (and doesn’t want one), work is one of the places I see people.

        I also have a job that benefits from relationships. In-office build relationships more organically than remote does. And relationships help me do my job. I work cross-functionally, so I have to ask things of people outside of my group that I don’t have managerial control over. Relationships help that. There’s a lot of product information I got in the side/hallways conversations that has helped me a better communicator in my role that…just wouldn’t have happened via the text of an IM or email.

        Those 2 years I spent WFH benefited from all those in-person relationships I had. Can I build relationships remotely, sure – but it’s harder and you have to be more deliberate and it takes more energy than doing it organically because I’m just around people, so in-person relationships are likely going to take precedence because of that immediacy bias. (not a manager, so not impacting disparate treatment of direct reports).

        Also, I just f’ing burned out on reading and writing things. Writing is a big focus of my work, so yes I need the focused quiet time, but frankly – home has more distractions (in terms of chores and messy rooms) than work does, so I’m better at it at work (with headphones). Some people complain that a meeting could have been an email – I feel like I’ve encountered email chains that should have just been a freaking meeting.

        Which is all to say why I have preferred the in-office route (3 days a week). It’s still pretty quiet here, but it’s also summer and we’ve got a lot of parents with school aged kids. The spring was too abrupt of a change with kids, I think, so it will be interesting to see what its like once school starts up this fall. There are a fair number of people in at least 1 day a week so maybe that will increase with school starting?

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Thanks, nona, I agree with all of this! Living alone means that theoretically it was no problem to WFH, but for me it was so isolating and I hated it! To do anything other than stay in the house was such an effort. Even when I don’t see a lot of people in the office, I see someone, and get out into the world.

          1. nona*

            I also figure, someone has to start. If the issue is that “no one is in the office to talk to”, I’ll be that person. I won’t be the reason everyone comes back, but if I come in consistently because it works for me to be in, that might incentive for someone else, who then is an incentive for the next set of people.

            It took us a while to figure out how to go from 95% in person to 100% WFH. It’s going to take time to figure out the hybrid thing.

            I mean the cafeteria also has a nice salad bar, so it means I get my veggies 3x a week without the food going bad in my fridge at home (because I never manage to eat my salad fixings at home). So, the food is an incentive to me. I’m tired of having to do all the work to feed myself!

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        I am also an introvert, and I strongly prefer onsite to WFH. I learned in my student days that if I want to get anything significant done, I need to be outside of my living space, like in a library or computer lab on campus. Even if I don’t talk to anyone while I’m away from home, I find that the change of scene has a huge effect on my mood and motivation, and on my ability to disconnect from work at the end of the day.

        1. Tau*

          I hear you. WFH was pretty much a disaster for my productivity and mental health, I need to be in a physically separate location in order to be able to properly switch into work mode. I sometimes hear people talk like they’re assuming that obviously everyone will be more productive at home than in the office… yeah, no.

          Thankfully, although my company hasn’t made coming back in mandatory (as stated somewhere upthread, they left it to each team to figure out whether they want team office days and if so how often) there are quite a few people who come in Just Because so you’re not alone. I’m really trying to come in 3 days a week minimum – I mourn the ability to work in my comfy home where I have everything set up the way I want it, or run a load of laundry at lunch, but my brain just doesn’t handle it well at all.

          And honestly, I have found that certain discussions and brainstorming etc. go a ton smoother in person. There was one day where everyone in my subteam was in and we decided to talk through a problem in a meeting room on the whiteboard. It was super productive, we came to a good solution, and I came out of it certain that if we’d had to do it over Zoom we’d have needed twice as long and probably not managed to figure things out as well.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      Yes, the people are one of the reasons I want to go back. Problem is, there are less than 20 cars in the parking lot on a good day. It’s usually a ghost town. Saying hi to the security guard and the cafeteria person is the most social I get. Still, as a single person in an apartment, that’s more social than at home.

  30. Carlee*

    My company offers free, on-site childcare for anybody coming into the office. Folks have the option to work remotely, with the occasional (like, weekly) required in-person meeting.

    Offsite childcare (for 2 kids under 3): $3,200/month

    I’m in the office every day. As is every parent of any kid aged 5 and under.

    (Honestly, I prefer working from the office and it’s *so* much more collaborative now that probably 50-60% of the 600+ people in my office work from here daily).

    1. Properlike*

      When my kids were that young, this is something I would’ve gone in for. (But would’ve needed the flexibility to stay home when all those germs kept circulating.)

    2. Remote until an empty nester at this rate*

      Free or subsidized on-site child care is the only thing that would bring me back to an office. Eliminate my >$4,000/month child care costs and in a setting where I don’t have to shorten my workday to drop off/pick up my offspring? I’ll work weekends too, and thank my employer for the privilege. Seriously.

      1. Carlee*

        It turns out that the free on-site childcare is an *excellent* tool for recruiting in a really tough labour market — many of our competitors are struggling to hire new staff, and I’ve had zero problems on-boarding three new engineers (*shockingly* all turned out to be parents of small children).

        Fwiw, the firm is really good about “caregiver leave” for any reason (ie for a sick parent/grandparent/sibling), so it isn’t just parents who benefit.

    3. starfox*

      For me, it would be pet care. I was never able to work remotely because I work in healthcare, but I have worked out a hybrid schedule with my boss so I can write reports from home in the afternoon, or else I wouldn’t have been able to get a puppy which is something I wanted more than anything else in the universe, lol.

      Doggie daycare is significantly cheaper than childcare, but it’s still $470 a month. The cheapest dog walker I could find is $300 a month.

  31. Rayray*

    If a job can be done from home, companies need to just allow people to do so. No one wants t-shirts or Domino’s pizza. They want no commute and no distractions.

  32. UKgreen*

    I’m in the UK, I’m a learning designer and trainer, and used to work at home 2 days per week pre Covid. I now work at home 4 days a week, travelling into the office once per week.

    On the days I go into to the office, I get up at 5.15am, and because it’s too early for the buses to run have a 30-minute walk (often in the dark) to the station, or I get a lift in. I board a train at 6.15am and change onto another train halfway through my journey. I eat breakfast (a cereal bar and a coffee) on the train, then walk 20 minutes from the station to the office, lugging my laptop and all my crap for the day. I arrive at 8am, assuming the trains were on time, and find a hot desk, set up all my crap, connect to the internet, etc etc.

    For the rest of the day I sit on a very uncomfortable chair that gives me butt-ache in a big, noisy, open plan office getting increasingly distracted and annoyed by people YELLING INTO TEAMS CALLS YES HELLO SIMON, SIMON! SIMON! YOU’RE ON MUTE! NO, ABSOLUTELY SIMON! and usually end up getting far less done that I would if I were in my quiet, comfortable, private office at home. Doing the bulk of my job (designing training courses or delivering training) is a no-go in such a noisy space, so I end up just catching up on emails and doing bland admin.

    At 5pm I leave the office, walk 20 mins with butt-ache from the chair to the station lugging my laptop and all my crap, catch two trains home (often having to stand for 45 minutes on the second one as there are usually no seat reservations in place), get a bus or a lift or a long walk (uphill) and arrive home exhausted just before 8pm but often due to train delays as late as 10pm, so I can’t commit to any evening activities on Thursdays.

    Even booking well in advance and committing to a specific train, this hell still costs me between £25 and £45, to show my face in the office for ‘political’ reasons and to have to spend Friday catching up on all of the work I couldn’t get done in the actual office on Thursday as it’s so loud and distracting…

    But yes, employer, keep telling me how ‘important’ it is for me to be in the office.

    1. londonedit*

      I thought I was going to really enjoy getting back to going to the office a couple of days a week, because in the Before Times I could afford to buy a coffee and something reasonably nice for lunch every day, even being in-house five days a week. With inflation and electricity prices the way they are? I’ll be paying (luckily only about £9 because it’s all on London transport, but still) to schlep my packed lunch to the office, so I won’t even get to enjoy the benefits of a central London location.

      1. UKgreen*

        Yeah, although the Pret coffee subscription is Worth It if you’re a hot drink fan (although I find the temptation to then buy All Of The Things while I’m in there negates the saving!)

    2. Miss 404*

      Ugh, same. Two days a week mandatory, that change depending on the week (because heaven forbid the peons are allowed the same evenings free each week), I get up at 5:25 for my two-hour, 20-quid commute (including two separate half-hour walks), to sit at the first desk I can find (and so I have to manually adjust the brightness on Every. Single. Desk. I sit at for the sake of my poor macular-degenerated eye) for eight hours on a chair I loathe.
      Honestly, the worst part about all this is that I love being in London and would be perfectly happy to come in two days a week if I could just choose them! I’d love to be able to pet the dog after mass and spend my Friday evenings in the city I love without worrying about having to get up in the morning! But sometimes I just want my comfy chair and ratty old T-shirt, y’know?

        1. UKDancer*

          We are in 2 days per week (minimum) and we can choose which ones which makes a huge difference. I actually quite like it because it means I can arrange to do particular classes at Pineapple on office days. My flat is small (being London) so I like the change of scene 2 days per week and it is helpful going to some meetings in person.

          In the winter I will need to weigh the cost of the commute against the cost of electricity at home. Then I can decide whether I’d rather be in more or less.

          1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

            I think the rising energy costs will definitely be a factor here in terms of coming back to the office (I’m not in the UK, but in Europe). I’m lucky and my employer pays for my public transport ticket, so you bet I will be going in more often in winter than my current 1 day a week.

  33. Anon Entity*

    My desires are simple: A hot water kettle and a desk fan for when the office is too hot. Both of these are disallowed under our office policy.

    Oh, and a computer that’s not slower than my home computer and and office that’s not half the size of my home office would be nice, too, but those are stretch goals.

    1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      Oh goodness, yes! We have a building that is most often WAY too cold, to the point that I am bundled in multiple blankets while sitting in my desk chair. Keeping my door open helps a bit wih the industrial-freezer vibes, but then I have lots of intrusions and distractions that make it hard to accomplish my tasks. Working from home means that I am comfortable and am not actively fighting environmental conditions that cause my chronic pain to flare up.

      1. Anon Entity*

        That reminds me of another simple desire: authorization to use a keyboard that doesn’t actively make my hands hurt.

        1. Raine*

          I have an ergonomic keyboard that I convinced a former employer to buy for me and have carried around ever since, because when I was laid off, they claimed it was mine. In the US, that kind of accommodation does fall under OSHA/ADA purview. Might be worth the effort to push back on that, because repetitive stress injury does fall under OSHA….

      2. kathjnc*

        hahah yeah. I’ll be going back in to the office this fall, when the in-office temperatures are no longer so arctic I need a space heater.

    2. Bread Crimes*

      This is certainly helping me understand even more why I’m desperately glad to be back in my office again. I have a comfy cubicle with my own snacks and tea kettle and tea, and a little desk fan for when it gets stuffy, and a fairly quiet space but occasional coworkers in the room I can chat with about our interesting area of work… It’s so much easier to work here than in my apartment, with no dedicated desk space or decent chair. And my commute is a pleasant walk, so it gets me out of the house when I might otherwise slowly melt into the couch.

      No kettle, no fan, and I’d be a bit less happy. The flex space or noise other people describe, or a long driving commute? Ugh. The office is by far my most productive environment, but it clearly varies by environment, on both the office and home side.

  34. Jane Bingley*

    A real reason is most important to me. “I want to see your faces” is not a good reason. Neither are productivity arguments, unless there’s evidence that productivity was negatively affected by WFH. “We have an expensive lease” is the worst reason of all.

    If I’m coming back for a good reason, I want a clear and predictable schedule, one where everyone is in office on the same days whenever possible. The value of collaboration is wasted if the day I come in is not the same day as most of my colleagues.

    I don’t particularly want perks. They feel patronizing to me, personally. If there’s money to go around, pay us more or give one-time bonuses to your most valuable team members. Otherwise, acknowledge that it’s inconvenient and give the good reason, give people lots of notice (like a few months, given how hard it can be to find child care), and set a clear schedule.

    1. Jane Bingley*

      Oh, also – removal of all fluorescent lights! At best, people hate them; at worst, they cause people physical pain. They’re a major migraine trigger for me. Death to those horrible, overbright, buzzy lights!

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      My issue with your first paragraph is that then I need to get into the “you suck working from home thing” that most people vehemently rail against. People want it both ways. They want the rational but then are going to hate and fight the rational for going in some days, if you give it to them. Everyone talks like they’re so productive at home but I am not seeing it in many cases. Quite the opposite. I find it a weird hill people are dying on because in many cases they are so obviously wrong, where if they think that if they admit to any flaw, then poof, WFH is gone for ever. When I used to deal with productivity type issues in the office, people didn’t fight me anywhere near as hard. We’d just sort of agree the thing happened and move on. But now people won’t ever admit to possibly doing anything less than stellar.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        I agree with you. I can speak from my job and those of my friends, but there are definitely people who are good at working from home. There are also people that are objectively hard to reach, do the bare minimum, and were much more productive when they were in the office. But that last group seems to be vocal proponents of more WFH time and when it’s pointed out that they were much easier to collaborate with in the office (I get that that’s a buzzword, but I mean actual collaboration – talking through projects, working through fire drills), they respond with eye rolls or monologues about how people are always bothering them in the office and not giving them time to work. It’s a lose/lose.

        There are certainly jobs that can be done equally as well (or better) remotely. But there are also jobs that CAN be done remotely but can be done BETTER with time for collaboration, meeting in person, and reminders that there’s a person on the other end of the computer. We should stop pretending those jobs don’t exist.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        We have metrics for everything. We had them before Covid and after Covid. I have hard data that I am more productive at home.

        That’s me and I am sure there are people who slack off at home, but I would point out that there are people who slack off at the office.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          I do think that’s job specific. Our metrics are a bit harder to quantify. I mean we have metrics for how well the company did over the past couple of years (down but better than expected) but in a creative field it’s hard to quantify something like “team/person didn’t come up with an idea that could make us do better”.

      3. Pisces*

        To Prospect and Curiouser, I would add that some WFH-ers conveniently forget about when they ask someone who is in-office to do a task of theirs that can’t be done remotely.

        A small task is one thing. A big task is something else. People did the latter to me only twice before ExJob became ExJob.

    3. I would prefer not to*

      Totally agree that a lot of perks and treats to coax us in feel patronising. I always worry that maybe I’m a bit sourpuss about it but I’m an adult, deciding whether to go into work. I’ll usually make that decision on a work-based reason. If not, it’ll be another serious reason, like “my partner has Covid and I don’t want to risk spreading it into the office.”

  35. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

    One of the biggest things for me would be a truly accessible workplace. I have several health conditions that are much easier to manage while I am work from home, and I recently had a medical procedure that my doctor is happy to say I am required to work from home as I recover (at least in the short term).

    Now, could I go back if I our building actually met minimal accessibility standards? Possibly. I could definitely go back if not only did we have an accessible building but a workplace culture of inclusion and sensitivity (e.g. accessible restroom stalls are NOT phone booths, they need to be available for their primary purpose; sometimes it makes sense to let people flex hours and work half days in office, half days at home).

    While those situations aren’t specifically about returning to the office after pandemic-related closures, having nearly everyone working remote from March 2020 to January 2021 actually gave many of us the chance to learn whether we were or were not “work from home people”. I happen to be very happy and even more productive when I work from home and I’d appreciate it if management could acknowledge that only about 20% of my work requires me to be in person, and even then, it isn’t every day.

  36. Anna*

    I go in to work, and what makes me happy about it is that I can see that I can do my job better in person than I ever could online.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Me too, some days anyway. I feel like switching my environment makes me more focused. Sitting too long in one place (by “long” I mean a few weeks in a row) and I find myself checking AAM and my phone too often!

    2. Courageous cat*

      Oh my god yeah. I can’t stand wfh full time. Did it a year and a half, and I am so much happier and healthier going back out into society and interacting with the world and leaving my house.

      It sucks for me that so many roles are fully remote now. I’d get so depressed doing that again.

  37. DarthVelma*

    For those of us who are not going into the office because we don’t want to catch COVID (and heaven forbid develop long COVID), no amount of free food or swag or even money is going to make me want to be around other people who I know aren’t taking even minimal precautions. I went back into the office a couple days a week for about 3 weeks and no one was masking or distancing. So I noped back out.

    1. Quietthistime*

      I had a similar experience.

      Wanting the pandemic to be over does not magically make the pandemic over. Some of my colleagues on our leadership team were very enthusiastic about being back together, but I was SO much less productive when I was on high alert about masking, distancing, etc. in the office. My adrenaline was going all the time, and I came home exhausted. Why would an employer want to unnecessarily expose their employees to what, for some of us, is a life or death risk on a daily basis? I did not sign up for that, so I am staying home.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Was this recently?

        Surveying everyone I know and my own job, most if not all workplaces are at a point where a significant number of people already had covid and the rest have been travelling and in the office or school or factory or wherever and are vaccinated and never got it.

        1. louvella*

          Not who you’re replying to, but I agree with this…I’ve had to come in for a handful of in-person meetings and have worked in-office very occasionally but being on constant high alert, going outside to remove my mask and take sips of water…it’s not fun and not conducive to actually being productive. And yeah, I am referring to recently.

          1. Prospect Gone Bad*

            I have been wondering what the long term game is for people who don’t want to go in because of covid. I usually only get snarky responses when I ask. But if you’ve resigned yourself to covid being here like this and I guess the vaccine wasn’t enough to change your mind, then do you just stay home forever? What about other activities like dining out or holidays or travelling or going to the library or gym?

            I think people think I am being snarky when I ask this but I am truly interested in how people view 2024 and 2025 and beyond, I promise I won’t push back. In fact, I won’t even respond, I promise!

            1. Anonymous for this*

              There are a vast number of options between “never leave the house” and “pretend COVID isn’t happening.” Lots of people say things like “We need to learn to live with COVID!” which, to them, means just getting over it and not taking any precautions.

              Whereas if you truly want to live with COVID, then as a society we need to actually be making the changes in our shared spaces that make that possible. Upgrading ventilation. Masking where you’re unsure about air quality, and sometimes even when you are if other factors are at play (crowds, small spaces, etc.). Paid sick days so that people who come down with this highly contagious disease aren’t financially penalized for making the ethical choice to isolate. And there’s lots more besides that! A century ago people didn’t just “learn to live with cholera”; we upgraded all of our water/plumbing infrastructure to make sure we could reduce the chances that people got it. The same should be true here.

              If your workplace won’t meet the low hanging fruit that is learning to live with COVID in a meaningful way, then they really don’t deserve you back.

            2. Gerry Keay*

              So here’s my honest, non-snarky response: my risk analysis for the world has been permanently altered, and my behavior has been as well. I’m an introvert and a homebody by nature, so spending weekends crafting at home or wandering in the woods genuinely is how I want to be spending my time and honestly it’s nice not having the pressure to “do more socializing” than I actually want to do.

              I live in California so I only eat at restaurants with outdoor seating (or do takeout) — again, no great sacrifice. I travel less than I used to, but will still get on a plane for a family event or a wedding, just with lots of masking and testing and caution on the way, usually once or twice a year (hey, still more than many people can afford to travel!). I still go get groceries, go shopping, etc, but I do so in a mask and usually not as a group social event. I’m fine with it! I live a smaller, quieter life than I used to and expect to do so for the foreseeable future. And you know what? I’m genuinely happy!

              The short of it is that I’ve already got mental AND physical health issues I have to manage on a daily basis. I would much rather make these lifestyle changes myself than have them made for me by becoming permanently disabled through long covid.

            3. online millenial*

              I don’t want to go into an office full of people because I don’t want to get COVID or long COVID or spread it to others. I haven’t dined in at a restaurant since July 2021. I haven’t travelled since before 2020. “We’re all just gonna get it, oh well” is not an attitude I’m willing to embrace or accept. There are still millions of vulnerable people who will die if they get it, and millions more are being permanently disabled. As anon for this says, “living with COVID” doesn’t mean pretending that it doesn’t exist or it’s not a big deal; it would mean masks, clear messaging around vaccines and boosters, upgraded ventilation–you know, an actual, functioning public health initiative.

              Until that happens? I’m not going into the office or spending more time in public than I have to. It’s made my life much smaller, and it sucks, but that’s what I have to do to keep myself and others safe, because so many other people think it’s no big deal if we all get sick.

            4. Irish Teacher*

              I am going to work and am actually attending a couple of events in the next few months, so I’m not somebody who has to remain home due to being high risk or having a high risk person living with them, so I am just speaking in general here rather than for myself.

              To be honest, it’s looking like society needs to change. While the vaccine HAS been a game-changer, unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped people getting covid, it has simply reduced the severity and while that is amazing and I think it’s easy to underestimate this, the reality is people are still dying of covid, though at a lower number. And having gotten covid doesn’t prevent from getting it again. So I really think it looks like we have to accept it could be around long term and that means, if we want people back in the office and to keep the vulnerable people in society safe, we need to make long term changes, such as improving ventilation, possibly reinstating the mask mandate for certain environments like healthcare settings, public transport and large scale indoor events, possibly retaining a certain amount of social distancing – this does not mean we have to remain 2 meters apart at all times, but…I don’t think we should be returning to events/pubs/restaurants, etc so crowded that you’d worry about how you are even going to get out (whether that should ever have been allowed is a good question).

              People talk about “living with covid” as if it means just pretending it doesn’t exist any more, but I think “living with covid” means making small adaptations so that things like lockdowns, hospitals overcrowded with people suffering from it, etc don’t happen. Just restricting events to the number of people who can fit without having them jammed beside each other, having adequate ventilation in buildings, wearing masks in busy places or places like healthcare settings where vulnerable people are particularly likely to be and encouraging people to take time off when they are ill are not really onerous and shouldn’t have much impact on our life, but can reduce the spread of covid (and also other illnesses like flu).

              There IS also talk of the possibility of a more effective vaccine AND there are likely to be further improvements/maybe even a treatment that would prevent serious illness or death further down the line. We are still VERY early in the game. There are bound to be further improvements or treatments that can prevent long covid and maybe someday, covid won’t be a threat at all, but we are not there yet. Thankfully, we ARE at a point where we don’t need to shut down all of society, but there is a big middle ground between “close down everything” and “pretend it’s not happening.”

            5. Matilda*

              It seems like a lot of people are still forgetting about families with kids under 5. We took our toddler for his first vaccine as soon as it was approved, but that wasn’t until a couple of months ago. He’ll complete the series later this fall. We’re not talking about never getting back to normal! My partner and I just want to protect our kid as best we can.

            6. mlem*

              As with several others who responded to you, I’ve changed my life to decrease my risk of Covid, but not really significantly.
              – I don’t eat out at restaurants, but I almost never did before Covid.
              – I shop or go to libraries in a mask, and with identified needs rather than just-to-browse.
              – I haven’t flown in 8 years and the meltdown of air travel makes me have no interest in changing that; but I’ll drive somewhere if I need (or want) to.
              – I’ll go to the office *for a specific need* like working with a specialized printer, but not just to sit in a different place for the same video calls.
              – I don’t go to the gym; my exercise is walking the neighborhood (carrying a mask in case of in-person encounters) when the weather allows and an exercise bike at home when it doesn’t.

              None of that is a big deal, at least for me.

              My only real changes are no longer going out to movies at all (which was a pricey habit anyway) and only seeing one set of equally-cautious friends at Thanksgiving. The only thing I’m sad about is that last one, but I’m not so sad that I’m prepared to risk killing any of my friends to change it.

            7. Generic Name*

              Here is a data point that I offer as-is, just stating the facts: I have a friend who basically did not leave her house for like 2 years. Remote work, grocery delivery, no eating out, etc. When my other friends and I were starting to cautiously emerge, and have small meetups with maybe 3 people outdoors, she said she was still being very cautious with COVID and never attended. Then, she got put on anti-anxiety medications, and she feels comfortable eating in restaurants again, going to stores, etc.. She still works 100% remote.

            8. louvella*

              The world is riskier now, and I doubt my behavior will ever go back to what it was before the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean I take zero risks now. It means that when I do take risks, they sure as hell be worth it. I do dine out but only outdoor. I may reevaluate that if cases get pretty low and the weather makes outdoor dining harder, but a lot of places where I live have covered areas and heaters. I have traveled (once), obviously I masked in the airport and on the plane and did mostly outdoor activities when I was there. I do most of my socializing outside when possible, but I’ve still seen small groups indoors, mostly my family. I’m even going to an (indoor!) concert later this month, because it is a band that I really, really want to see. (I’m not planning on taking off my KN95 at any point.) I do in-person grocery shopping sometimes wearing a high quality mask,though more often I get most stuff from the local farmer’s market because it’s outdoors and I like it more. And I know some people aren’t wearing masks to the grocery store anymore, which I honestly do not understand because what benefit could you possibly be experiencing by not wearing a mask in the grocery store? If I get covid from something that really mattered to me, that felt worth the risk, fine. I’m sure I will at some point. But that’s not a reason to just take constant risks for no real reason. If I got covid from sitting in an office when I didn’t have to be there to do my job, I would be pissed.

            9. Curmudgeon in California*

              Because so many people have “decided” that Covid is “over” and they won’t mask or vax or stand six feet away many of us have given up on “… other activities like dining out or holidays or travelling or going to the library or gym”.

              Yes, we are going to have to stay home forever so we don’t get a disease that could kill us or our housemates. When we do go out we wear N95 masks, which aren’t all that comfortable, and refrain from eating or drinking indoors.

              Because a very large number of people never got on board with reducing risk and stopping the spread, we are stuck with this shit for the forseeable future – as in for the next 20 years at this rate. They have even doubled down on the “it’s just a cold/flu” even though there is an increased risk of ending up with long Covid each time you get it. Yes, I resent it, and my view of my fellow citizens is at an all-time low.

              1. The Real Fran Fine*

                Same here. I’m high risk for severe complications from COVID, so I’ve stayed in my apartment this entire time except for medical appointments (and I’m always double or even triple masked on the very rare occasion I go to these things).

                It must be nice to be totally healthy and be able to ask these kinds of tone deaf questions all the time, though.

            10. covid virgin*

              Ooh, I have found my people in the replies to your comment. I am a Covid virgin and behaving like I want to remain that way. I am blessed with a job that can be done remotely. I rarely if ever go out, and I limit the people I go out with, and space time between seeing them. I am behaving like some other people behaved in spring / summer 2020 with their cautions and risk analysis. Few people, rarely, and I am pretty against seeing a large group of people indoors like a workplace would be.

              I don’t want covid, I don’t want long covid, and more than anything, I don’t want to be the cause of my bus driver’s kid’s immunocompromised friend sick with covid. I have friends who are just now starting to fall ill for the first time, and it is definitely still no picnic.

              I also don’t understand why everyone is treating this like a done deal. I personally think everyone (who has a choice and) is taking this lightly now is no different than the irresponsible people in April-May 2020.

              I miss my friends, I miss the socializing, I am extrovert-leaning ambivert, but I’m also a happy homebody and I have an active social and volunteer life through Zoom. I’m not going to be the broken link in the wellness chain.

              1. covid virgin*

                editing to add:
                I do plan to, and want to, go back to the office _when_ this is all over and not before. At this rate, I’m guessing it will be another 2-3 years before everything has settled enough for me to feel comfortable.

            11. Peyresorde*

              Lots of us are engaging in cost-benefit analysis and decided what is worth taking a health risk for us. For me, I’m currently willing to take some health risks to eat at a favorite restaurant, to see family and close friends, to travel to awesome places. I’m not interested in taking those risks to sit at a desk and file TPS reports.

            12. Nightengale*

              I work in health care although we don’t see acutely sick patients in my office. I take care of children with developmental disabilities. I was switched completely to telemedicine at the start of the pandemic and now see patients on telemed 1 day a week and in the office the other days. We are all vaccinated at work and are supposed to wear masks at all times around others except when eating, although this is not always followed. To my knowledge I have not had COVID but several in my office did. Fortunately none of them got very sick from it. This was January-February at the height of omicron. Immunity from COVID seems to be a few months. Immunity from vaccination is longer but not indefinite.

              What I am doing? Not just staying home all the time but being pretty cautious. I keep an eye on the numbers in my urban county.
              Specifically I am :
              Not eating indoors in restaurants.
              Attending outdoor social events.
              Attending some small indoor events where I know the other people are vaccinated, and I wear a mask, when the numbers in my county are pretty low.
              Wearing a mask indoors in stores, etc
              Trying to keep bus trips down under 15 minutes.
              Only accepting rides when the numbers in my county are pretty low.
              I have flown twice and will again, masked.
              I am going to a conference this fall and I will wear a mask except for eating and will not be eating in group settings.

              COVID is so very not over.

            13. J*

              Every single month I’ve had someone who I work closely with out for 5-15 days because of illness. Many are on their 3 or 4th infection. Every single time they come back at diminished capacity. How is that sustainable? I’d much rather do my approach of remote work with no illnesses and masking always outside the home than to risk further disability and that level of disruption in my life.

              I dine out on patios when the weather allows. I am not traveling because my holiday leave last year was spent at a Covid funeral and this year masks are off so it’s not safe for my level of disability – I could probably do a road trip but I had to adopt a disabled animal that I inherited from said Covid death and petcare is just too much of a hassle for me to deal with right now. I just went to the library this afternoon (and all my indoor activities are fully masked) and I work out at home or on my ebike outdoors. This reduces decision fatigue, disruption to my life and yes, a lot of people. But considering half of my family don’t believe in Covid and refused to mask around me even in 2020, I’m okay with losing some people. My life is more important than trying to make other people happy. Travel and dining out were literally my entire entertainment budget in 2019 so I clearly value them but I’ve had to give them up during treatment before and I’m clearly doing it again. I didn’t survive cancer to die in a preventable way.

            14. Anon for this*

              I think there are reasonable accommodations employers can make. Like we have these big all staff meetings twice a year. There are only a few rooms big enough to hold us all and we end up sitting on top of each other to attend. Our director is insistent we do this again. Why? They were germ factories before and with Covid… They work better on zoom. We are all able to attend. We can all see. I don’t have to risk getting a virus so “it’ll be normal again.”

              A lot of our meetings work better remotely. Some require being in person. It would go a long way if our managers would just figure out when they should be remote and when in person and not shove us all back together because someone wants to go back in time prior to 2020.

              Right there, that’s an accommodation that would go a long way to reducing risk.

            15. Eyes Kiwami*

              You get snarky responses because it doesn’t seem like a serious question, especially not the way you’ve posed it: “if the vaccine wasn’t enough to change your mind, then do you just stay home forever?” Why are the only options you see either to take no precautions forever or stay inside forever?

              The vast majority of normal people have been adjusting their behavior to the current circumstances. When local cases are down: unmasking outside, seeing friends and family, eating indoors. When local cases are up: masking indoors or moving activities outside, getting takeout, postponing things and staying at home. Surely 2024 and beyond people will continue to risk assess for their locality and circumstances.

              1. The Real Fran Fine*

                You get snarky responses because it doesn’t seem like a serious question, especially not the way you’ve posed it: “if the vaccine wasn’t enough to change your mind, then do you just stay home forever?”

                Exactly. It’s a snarky ass question to begin with, so the responses are given in kind. Many of us are fully vaccinated and still don’t want this shit and are doing everything in our power – including remaining isolated and indoors in our own homes – to prevent infection that could literally kill us.

                People like the OP of this particular thread need to stop with the faux concern and mind the business that pays them.

              2. Curiouser and Curiouser*

                This. I think there are valid reasons to want people back in the office. And I think the MOST valid reason for not wanting to is “this isn’t over yet”.

            16. Emma*

              As others have said, it’s not a binary choice between “be on personal lockdown forever” and “take no precautions”. Everyone is going to make their own judgments about risk based on their own health, circumstances, and attitude. Personally I’m ok taking more risks for things that are important to me, but not for things that aren’t, which means, among other things:
              – I wear a mask on public transport and in shops. There’s no downside do doing this and if it keeps me from catching or passing on Covid, that’s a win.
              – I go to the theatre for shows I’m excited about! I wear a mask, to reduce the risk.
              – My employer moved offices last year. The new office has big windows on every floor which we keep open all the time for airflow. Most people have had Covid, including one who passed away, but nobody has caught or passed it on at work. Because of this I wear a mask less at work than I used to, and if I were looking for a new job, I would need to see the physical space and risk assess it for myself as part of deciding if I wanted the job.
              – I test every week and test again if I’m seeing someone who’s more vulnerable.
              – At restaurants, pubs etc I sit outside where possible. It’s nicer outside anyway.
              – If I’m organising a social thing with a bunch of people, I plan for it to be outside.
              – My partner is leery of flying. I’d fly for something I was excited about, but I’m also happy to take international trains instead for my partner’s comfort.

              None of this feels weird to me, because it’s in the same vein as the decision-making I have always done in order to live in a way that’s compatible with being disabled. Maybe some abled people are still finding post-Covid life to be “a lot” because they’re not used to having to make decisions like these?

        2. Quietthistime*

          Yes, recently. I am very grateful for my vaccine, which is helpful but not some sort of impenetrable defense. But I am really uncomfortable with the idea that most of us will ultimately get Covid and we all just need to accept that and go back to normal. For people with underlying medical issues, or who need to interact with them, Covid is very much still a dangerous or deadly illness, and it is not how I want to go. Our cultural shift away from masking, distancing, etc. has actually made the latest phase of the pandemic more dangerous for some people with medical risks.

          1. Quietthistime*

            Reading this thread over, I think my big takeaway is: Everyone is performing their own wanting to avoid COVID/wanting to live life risk calculations right now. For many of us, it is complicated and personal. As a result, employers are not in a good position to make those risk calculations on behalf of their employees, and, when the role allows, should trust their people to make the best choices for their health, mental health, and productivity.

            1. J*

              That’s a very good way of putting it. I just wish more places applied it in practice and did more to make workplaces safer, like improving ventilation and filtration or even having a masks on day each week in the office. They could be an active participant in the process of improving the risk level in the calculation.

        3. J*

          Most of my colleagues are on Covid encounters 2-4. A few 5s in there. Some are on infection 2-3 for the year. We’re a fully vaccinated workplace. Vaccine-only precautions lead to all sorts of disruptions.

        4. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          In the last three weeks, my office of about 20 people had three people out with Covid. Two others had in the the month prior. That does not include the folk who caught the original or Delta strains. A quarter of my office, out with Covid in the last 2.5 months.

          Just because I’m vaccinated doesn’t mean I’m no longer high risk. I have to be in the office every day. I wear a mask while I’m there, except for when I take my lunch break in a private office where no one else goes (job duties prohibit me from being there all day).

          So yeah, people are still getting it despite the number of people who’ve had it previously or have been vaccinated.

    2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I was required to go to an in-person training at our home office a couple of months ago. It was the first large gathering of office employees since 2020. Our instructor tested positive for covid on the second day, and a good number of attendees including myself got covid too (I had avoided it up until then and I was pissed).

      But yes, let’s bring everyone back into the office in January. Stellar idea after your first test run turned into a super-spreader event.

    3. Another Person*

      Every time I have gone into the office, I have gotten an email about a COVID exposure. So I stopped going in. Luckily, no one has complained (and actually case rates are currently high enough that none of us are required to work in the office right now).

  38. Sunny days are better*

    After working from home for two years, in March, the management of my team decided that “starting next week, we will come into the office 1 day/week.” It made no sense because nothing had changed in the Covid situation where I live. It was so arbitrary.
    They knew how I felt about coming in, and haven’t pushed. I have gone in a handful of times when I needed access to equipment, but I haven’t been there since November.
    Some weeks, people aren’t even going in on that one day and they haven’t really said too much. My team has mostly turned over in the last year, which is probably a lot of the reason that they aren’t pushing.
    There have not been any company incentives to come in. I would be more willing to come in if people were masking, but everyone is just living like it’s 2019, and I know that I will be far less productive sitting in an N95 mask all day at my desk. Covid is definitely running rampant at work, though some are good about staying home until they test negative.
    I am being dragged in for a weeklong company wide event later in the month, but that’s all they’re getting out of me. I will come in when they make me and I have no choice.

  39. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Our place has a sharp divide between the staff who absolutely have to be on site and those who don’t and frankly it got really nasty during lockdown and wasn’t addressed. So people are reluctant to come back to a place where they know Bob down the hall told them that they were idiots for believing this ‘hoax virus and taking the opportunity to skive off work’.

    Me, personally, I prefer the order of the office (my house is tiny and there’s really no room) but I actually loved not being around people and not having to drive to work. The commute is a big thing for me as anything over a few metres I have to drive. Petrol costs a lot in th UK.

    I’m no expert on human psychology so I leave the question of ‘how to get people who’ve resented each other to work together’ and ‘how to deal with people who actually don’t like being around other humans’ to those with actual expertise in the area!

    But the commute thing, that is a big deal and I think companies should understand that people now know that there are alternatives to paying out the nose every day for fuel and offer at least flexible WFH/office times.

    There’s also the issue of if the firm had spent years telling people they absolutely could not do their job from home – no, disability accommodations didn’t matter – only to suddenly switch to whole offices working from home…well, nobody is going to believe a word that employer says ever again. And that’s a breach of trust that cannot be solved.

    (And why there’s a certain large firm I am never working for again)

  40. Elgrash*

    I think there’s a couple of ways to bring me in:
    – Ensure that the work in the office is meaningful. There’s no point in going in if I’m doing the same thing that I would be doing from home. It just adds stress for no reason, and it’s no fun taking meetings on MS teams in the office, ends up being disruptive
    – Give me some sort of benefits for adding extra hours to my work time and increasing my expenses re: the commute
    – Don’t pretend that there are some magnanimous reasons for going back to the office or how it’ll improve everything. Just be honest that it’s because senior management wants butts in seats, or you’re doing it for making sure the building folks get their rents or whatever. Much easier than making up all sorts of outlandish reasons (or I guess, lies)

  41. Former Retail Lifer*

    My husband’s company has everyone going in two days a week on assigned days. They insist it’s because they want to maintain the “culture” and “collaboration.” His department is on the phone with customers all day. There is zero collaboration, and no one can identify the supposed “culture” they’re referring to. They do have regular team meetings, but since everyone’s assigned in-office days are different, they’re still doing them over Teams. They receive no extra perks for going in and there’s never anything accomplished in-person when they’re there. He said he wouldn’t mind occasional in-office days if there was actually a point to them, like an all-team meeting in person, or there were any perks at all for going in, like lunch provided.

  42. Sangamo Girl*

    I work for state government. There are no carrots, just sticks. We are required to be one day per week with no flexibility on that day.

    People are, of course, not happy because our metrics proved we were more productive at home.

    The state as a whole has over 7,000 current vacancies they are having trouble filling. They don’t see the connection.

    1. Meow*

      Similar situation in state government, but our management requires everyone to be in one day, and then also come in 2 other days, scheduled.

      A ton of people quit when it was announced. To be a tiny bit fair, hybrid isn’t unusual at all around here, and a lot of people actually like it, but I think the difference with us is that the pay is also terrible. A lot of people made the comment when they quit, “I can get another job that’s fully remote AND pays better, what benefit is there to sticking around here?”

    2. Sit in Syrup*

      I work for federal government. No treats or free food, no swag. We have to come in 2 days/week to keep an assigned desk. Minimum of 1 day/week (with hot desking). This is way more flexibility than we had pre-covid, so it’s satisfactory to many. They gave everyone a multi-month period to “figure out your new normal” and have been patient with people who had car trouble, child care trouble, etc. Overall it’s been a middling success. You don’t expect much change from a giant bureaucracy, so only having to work 1-2 days/week in-office is a bigger step in the right direction than I expected.

    3. I watered your plants while you had covid*

      I am also in state government and later this month we are going to 3 days in office mandatory for all state employees. Since that was announced we have received multiple resignations daily from our department alone.

  43. Elle*

    Last year my company instituted a hybrid work policy. We come in one day a week and it’s our choice of the day. There hasn’t been a lot of push back because it’s only one day a week and the policy is clearly written out.

    1. Elle*

      I should add that we have a mask, covid and flu vaccine requirements. We’ve been back a year and have had no covid outbreaks in the office.

        1. Elle*

          We were required to do it by the state but I think it’s made more people comfortable being in the office. Also because we can pick the day we’re in and so many people work in the field the offices are largely empty. I don’t wear my mask unless I’m talking to someone or walking in the hallways.

  44. MxBee*

    80% of my team are on another continent, I wouldn’t be working with them in person if I did go in to the office building. Add in that my employer has switched everything to hot desking, so no one has an assigned desk, and no one has a locker to keep personal belongings in, and they’ve just made it completely inaccessible to me and anyone else without the ability to carry all that they need for a day in the office in with them each day and take it home again every evening.

    At home, I have dual monitors, a desk that’s the correct height for me to work at, and no competing background noise when I’m on Teams calls with my team. I’d need at least that, personal lockers, and an assigned desk to return to the office on a regular basis.

  45. Snow Globe*

    I’ve been working from home since long before the pandemic. The only reason I’d be willing to return to the office is if there was a convincing reason I’d *need* to be in the office. For example if I was offered a promotion to manage a team that needed to have a manager on site. I’d be more than willing to go in if it was necessary for the job, but otherwise it’s just so frustrating to spend all that time commuting for no reason other than senior management wants it. I wouldn’t want to work for that kind of management.

  46. The Prettiest Curse*

    For UK folks, I’m wondering how much the energy bill crisis will affect your going into the office – will it be cheaper to go in than stay at home and put the heating on occasionally? I’m sure for some people the rising cost of commuting will mean that it will be less cost-effective to go into the office. (I’m very fortunate to live a half-hour walk from my office, so commuting is free, though sometimes unpleasant in winter weather.)

    I go into the office once day a week at the moment – our team coordinates and all goes in on the same day. We have limited desks and have hired a lot of people recently, so I don’t think I’ll be required to do additional days in-office unless we get a new office space.

    1. UKgreen*

      I could literally have my heating running all day every day and get bills as high as the hyperbolic figures in the Daily Mail and it would still be cheaper than an annual rail season ticket between my home town and the town I work in… (and that’s before the 10% increase in rail fares we can expect in January)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Memories of the £8k/year season ticket I had to get to work in London every day. Trains in the UK are ridiculously expensive.

        I work for the railway, and in the past when we had a big offsite meeting we’d send people by car or plane. Not joking.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, rail fares are so ridiculously expensive here. I feel really bad for anyone who has to commute by train.

    2. londonedit*

      I said the same above – I’m not sure whether it would work out cheaper for me personally, but I’m sure for a lot of people the cost of heating their house five days a week would be more than the cost of commuting (or they’d at least feel better about going and using the company’s electricity rather than their own!)

      1. LDN Layabout*

        The Telegraph tried to sell that one. For Londoners, even with all the penny savings they tried to squeeze out of it, the sums still didn’t add up to covering the costs of a typical commute.

        (and by typical commute I mean the actual London zones, not the fake ones or home counties)

        1. londonedit*

          If I do two days a week that’s £18 total with the daily price cap on contactless, and my gas and electricity are about £100 a month (at the moment…). So in theory it might just about work out cheaper for me to spend the £18 and not worry about heating for two days out of seven, but you’d have to spread all the costs out over a long time and I’m not really sure how much difference it’d really make to my energy bills in the grand scheme of things, as I’d still be cooking and showering and paying all the standing charges, I’d just be saving a bit in gas by not having to heat the flat all day.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            Yeah, it also depends on how strict you are on yourself with the other costs of commuting (e.g. I know my own habits, even if I have a packed lunch, it’s likely I’ll treat myself to a drink or similar if I go in. Which is fine as a treat but does feed into the costs).

            Honestly, I think the margins are fine enough that sorting out some draft excluders and picking and choosing what rooms get properly heated and which only get the chill taken off the) would probably cross out any savings made by commuting.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep, absolutely. I’d rather work from home anyway and on top of that £9 a day to commute you can absolutely add on £3 for a coffee and, let’s face it, probably £5 when I decide I don’t fancy the lunch I’ve brought, or even more than that when people suggest going for a quick drink after work. Being in a small flat it’s heat the whole place or nothing (though I don’t have the radiator in the kitchen switched on) but I’m absolutely going to be making use of my thermal layers and jumpers this winter!

    3. MxBee*

      My employer’s office building was set to a lower temperature last winter in the name of energy efficiency, but professional dress was still required. There were a lot of complaints – I can’t imagine that going into the office will be a solution to staying warm this winter either.

    4. UKDancer*

      I am going to need to do the maths on the electricity bills v cost of commute into London. The company asks us to be in 2 days per week and I like to do 1-2 days at home, so I will need to weigh up whether it’s a cost saving to come in more often or not.

      I do tend to spend money on lattes and nice salads when I’m in the office and there’s the cost of the commute which is capped at £9 per day. I’m not sure what my electricity bills are going to be this autumn.

      So I think I will do the maths and see. Personally I like hybrid as having a mix of office and home suits me quite well. So 2-3 days in the office is probably my ideal.

    5. I would prefer not to*

      It seems easier to manage the costs of fuel a bit. You can wear four jumpers and drink hot water and lemon all day. OK that isn’t ideal but the cost of commuting is just fixed, all the time, same every day.

  47. Laney Boggs*

    I mean… just having an Actual Reason for it.

    My job is primarily dealing with other departments across the country; rarely ever with my own – e.g I go weeks without speaking a word to any other CSRs in my office.

    Additionally, we deal with purchase order numbers, item numbers, delivery numbers, tracking numbers, &c&c&c. So even if you are 2 feet away, I am going to IM/email you the relevant number string so you can copy and paste it into the relevant spot. There are people who will take the time to note down the number, walk to your desk, and then hover while you retype it. Those people are weird.

    Anyway, the point I’m making is… there is absolutely no reason for me to be in the office. All my work is done electronically at home. They just hired a new CEO and HE doesn’t like wfh, so we don’t get to anymore. If it was actually a collaborative environment where heads were pressed together all the time, I might feel differently.

  48. BellyButton*

    I quit. I had been WFH for years before COVID. I supported North America, South America, and Central America. I had been given permission to move states and did so over a year ago. The majority of our employees are WFH and only about 5% live in the state where regional headquarters is. Less than 3% of the people who have participated in any of my programs and webinars/trainings were located in the state as regional headquarters. It made no sense for me to be in office. I would have had to book a conference room for 8 hrs a day anyway. I pushed back and was told no I needed to be in the office at least 3 days a week. I offered to be in the office for one week a month on my own dime and was denied. So I quit after fighting for my 2021 bonus and a severance package.

    Weeks after I left the only person who had even close to my seniority and skills also quit. In the 3 months since I have been gone, they haven’t been able to replace me, even with the position posted 3 levels below me. They haven’t gotten any applicants for my former colleague’s position which needs to be bilingual. Some of the employees I am close to tell me my former team has completely gone downhill and has not met any of the deliverables they were supposed to since I left. All the programs typically delivered have been on hold because there is no one to manage or facilitate them.

    I just landed a fantastic new job that is 100% remote.

  49. thelettermegan*

    I don’t mind coming in for a specific reason, and love it when I can go home when they specific reason is completed.

    The biggest thing for me is the desk itself! I’m very short, and I wish there was a supply of big footrests that I could borrow some to make the desk more comfortable for me.

  50. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    Our biggest bosses, because bureaucracies get oddly territorial about office real estate, wanted people in the office so that other parts of the org don’t start squatting in our assigned area. I’m remote so don’t know how big a deal this was pre-pandemic, but I do know that not even the bosses want to commute to the office so office squatting has to be up there with being raided by honey-badgers in the probability stakes.

    Our team just did Tuesdays as in-person and everyone schedules whatever is easier to do face-to-face on Tuesdays. No one has to be there Tuesdays and you can come in whenever you want if you prefer, and if that want is never then fine. Half of us work in another state anyway so it isn’t a huge deal. Right now two folks who live in places that weren’t great for WFH come in just about every day and use the offices. On Tuesdays almost everyone comes in every week unless something urgent comes up. No honey badgers or office squatters to be reported yet, but there is still 2023!

    1. PaperPal*

      We have a similar situation. Large org, some of our office spaces are in desirable areas of the building so people are always looking for it. An adjacent team was just told because they were hybrid they were getting moved to a building across the street, farther from clients they meet with. As a result our manager wants to make sure we have people “in seats” all the time.

  51. Sara*

    Currently working remote and we seem to head to the office once a quarter when all of our team comes to the office to actually meet together and collaborate. That seems to be the best of both worlds for me. I still see coworkers occasionally, I don’t waste time driving to an office where “collaboration” is magically happening because I happen to be there and I get to see a city I enjoy a few times a year.

  52. AKD*

    The thing that has seemed to encourage more people to come to the office at my workplace (in the Bay Area) was making mask wearing optional, which we only did a couple of weeks ago. There are people who are still very worried about covid and they can certainly keep wearing a mask at the office, but others did not want to come in if they had to wear a mask all day. We had been doing all the other “perk” type things with social gatherings and free food and really it wasn’t moving the needle all that much.
    (I think we are probably weird in that we still had a mask policy inside the office, but we are in Berkeley, so…)

    1. COVID isn't over*

      If my employer drops our mask mandate, I’m giving my notice that same day. This “incentive” is actually making life more dangerous for everybody who works there, and in particular it shows a complete lack of respect for people at high risk.

      1. J*

        My workplace gave us 10 days notice for dropping masks and then immediately opening doors to the unmasked public. I had an offer within 72 hours and my last day was Day 9. I don’t play when it comes to my safety.

    2. Twenty Points for the Copier*

      This was actually the first thing I thought of, not because it’s relevant to me (I am self-employed and work from home… working from an office would mean paying for an office and a huge paycut), but because of a conversation yesterday. Someone was saying her employer is getting serious about luring people back, and one way they’re doing that is dropping the mask mandate.

      While a lot of people are still very cautious about Covid for various (often very legitimate) reasons, another group of people (that I suspect is larger) doesn’t want to wear a mask all day in the office and won’t voluntarily come back until they don’t have to.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yep. This is why I’m going to be mostly a prisoner in my own house for quite a while. Because my housemates and I are high risk, and can’t be around the “just a flu” crowd.

      2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        The question of cost/benefit or risk/reward anlysis between employers mandating masking or leaving masking to employee individual choice doesn’t need to be as binary as it’s often presented.

        In a workplace where everyone can come to work at the same time without it being crowded, and have the option of an enclosed private office (in which one is allowed to eat and drink), the building has good air ventilation/filtration and surface sanitation especially in shared spaces, the company culture doesn’t rely on eating/drinking together, allow/promote coming to work ill, or problematize sick leave use or reasonable accommodations, that work environment is arguably lower risk for contagious disease transmission than one that has none of those other things but mandates masks.

  53. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    After everyone got sent home to work in 2020, my corporate office decided to get rid of the huge campus they were using on the outskirts of town and go to a few floors in a downtown office building.

    They just announced that anyone living within 35 miles of the downtown office location must start reporting to the office Tuesday – Thursday in January. I’m not sure what the hell they were thinking, but this will require 800 employees to return and there are only 200 parking spots available for our company in that building. I visited there in July and can attest that parking is a nightmare – I had to park in a private lot 3 blocks away from my hotel because both their parking structure and valet parking was completely full when I checked in. They say they are “working on a solution” but I don’t see how they can making parking lots fall out of the sky. Everyone is freaking out and the CEO even mentioned at a recent town hall that he recognized it was an unpopular decision but everyone would have to make the best of it.

    Thankfully I live several states away and we don’t even have an office in my city, so I’m good. But ooooh, this is going over like a lead balloon and it will be very interesting to see how it all pans out in 2023. My guess is we will definitely lose some good people over it – I know I would be looking elsewhere if I was required to go back.

  54. Feral Humanist*

    My organization started trying to get people to come back 70% time last spring. There has been a lot of “soft resistance”; the org doesn’t have the resources to enforce it and individual managers, myself included, haven’t wanted to. It seemed like a waste of time and energy so long as many of my meetings remained on Zoom. But now we are starting to schedule in-person meetings and events. There are just a lot more days when I have a reason to come in –– and so I do, though still not 70% time. While I had some dread about it at first, I’ve rediscovered that there are things I really like about being in-person, especially during the busy parts of the year (during the slow parts, which are predictable, I suspect I will work almost entirely from home).

    For my own team, we are starting off with in-person meetings, but I’ve told people to let me know if they need to be virtual. As a manager, I’m trying to allow folks as much flexibility as possible and being careful to give reasons when I ask folks to show up in person. So far, this has been well-met, and I’ve made it clear that I’m open to adjusting how we do things as we go.

    I will also say that so far, my organization has so far been good about allowing hybrid work (within our mostly fictitious 70% mandate) and condensed workweeks. I think that allowing folks to condense the time that they spend in the office or working in general is one very real adjustment that offices can make. It is easier, though, when more than just a handful of people are doing it. I tried a four-day workweek for one semester, and it was nice… but it never stopped feeling weird to not work on a Friday when most of my colleagues *were* working. I ended up going to a slightly less condensed schedule where I work Friday mornings from home but am off on Friday afternoons.

    TL;DR: Some folks either can’t or don’t want to come back at all, and I’m not sure there’s anything that will tempt them back. But for someone like me, having REAL reasons to be in the office (bagels and yoga don’t count) was what drew me back, and maintaining some degree of flexibility in my own schedule has been necessary for keeping me happy.

    All of that being said, I don’t intend to ever be in the office five days a week again. If my organization were suddenly to require that and enforce it, I’d be job hunting.

  55. Cookie*

    I would do it for a pay bump and an office with a door that closes so I can run the air purifier all day long.

    This place is asking me to drive 25 minutes each way for low pay and a good chance of getting covid every time I go in. I’m looking for a quiet, clean, low-microbe workplace, and right now that’s my house. I go in when they insist I must, no more.

    People at my office give each other covid every day. Nobody is doing anything about it except going “oh so sorry you’re not feeling good!” and meanwhile planning donut parties in the cafeteria, large indoor group “celebrations,” etc. All breathing, sneezing, coughing on each other.

    1. King Friday XIII*

      Yeah, this is where I’m at too. If I could stop getting notifications that there’s been a covid case in my home office I’d be less worried about going in…

  56. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    Small company (~13 people, employees and owners included) that went full-on WFH shortly after the pandemic hit in March 2020. Stayed that way for over two years and it went off without a hitch. To be quite honest, the industry we work in – translation – doesn’t require much more than a computer with internet and a specific piece of software, and client interactions (job requests and deliveries) are almost exclusively via e-mail.

    Once the restrictions lifted, management went full flexibility, requiring only two days a week in the office and maintaining a set of core hours that had been in place long beforehand. Things are still running very smoothly. I think there would have been a more serious struggle if management had tried to get us back into the office full-time from the get-go, but since they’re translators themselves and not simply project managers they were quick to see the advantages of the flexibility they’ve granted.

      1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        Fair point. Those two days, however, are up to each of us to determine. And we do have one employee with an immunocompromised partner who is exempt from the policy until the COVID situation improves.

        I suppose we could have stayed on full-time WFH with no problems, but personally I lost a lot of contact with the outside world during that time. There were literally weeks at a time where I did not leave the house. So, for better or for worse, I’m in the office 5 days a week.

  57. triplehiccup*

    I think this is part of why the Fed is cranking up interest rates even though there’s no evidence that too-low interest rates are causing current inflation. I feel very comfortable assuming that Jerome Powell would love to see workers lose power in the job market.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        You just accidentally invented a hilarious conspiracy theory: “the fed is cranking up interest rates to get us to go back in the office”

  58. Chelle*

    I work fully remote and did before the pandemic, because I work with clients located
    all over the country. However, with the sort of work I do (lots of meetings/collaboration), if I were looking for another job, I would be looking for either fully remote or a hybrid schedule where the in-office days were specified. I think it’s fine to specify by team or company-wide, but if you leave it up to individual people, you lose the collaboration benefit of being in office.

    Personally, no “perk” would make want to be back in the office, but a tangible work benefit (like meetings genuinely being easier when all participants are present in person) would.

  59. LizB*

    My org has “reopened the office” for employees but not the public, but out of 40 of us, we have one person there 5x/week (because their job duties require using physical office equipment), one person coming in 4x/week, four people coming in 1-2x/week, and everyone else still very happily remote. I think people would be okay coming in to meet with the public if we reopened for in person appointments, or for occasional meetings or trainings, but we’ve proven we’re really good at doing our jobs from home. When 99% of your job would be done via phone or email anyway, there’s really no point in commuting.

    1. Yikes*

      Does your company compensate that one person in the office to account for being the only one having to commute while everyone else is WFH?

  60. Queen Ruby*

    My workplace had everyone come back for 4 days/week, assuming your job can be done from home – not everyone can, or at least not on a weekly basis.
    However, yesterday, we were told we can now WFH 2 days a week. I think it’s partly because we can do our jobs from literally anywhere with internet access, and because so many people who are physically in the office still do virtual meetings, even when everyone in the meeting is on-site lol
    I think the WFH habits are hard to break, so they decided to just go with the flow rather than force it on us.

  61. Lauren19*

    I’m curious of how the employee expectations match up to the original job offer. As an employee, does it make a difference if you were employed by the organization prior to March 2020? Are the expectations you’re receiving from leadership different than what were expressed at the point of job offer?

    1. Anon4This*

      I’ve worked for my current company for 20 years, so long before the pandemic. What I’ve realized, since the pandemic, is that my quality of life is substantially better not having to commute, seeing my family more, and not having a lot of in-office distractions. Because of the Great Resignation (and skills I’ve developed during my career), I also have substantially more leverage to negotiate than I did when I was hired or even in March 2020.

      I don’t think conditions when you were hired versus current should really be a factor since jobs evolve all the time – they just did it this time on an expediated schedule due to extreme circumstances. Tons of expectations at my job have changed a lot since I was initially employed. When I first started out, it was all business professional dress (very expensive on entry-level salary), then it went to business casual, then added jeans on Fridays, and now has a dress-for-your-day/job requirement. When I was hired, working could only be done in the office – if you went home and then they needed you, you had to go back into the office. When we were all sent home in March 2020, I was part of a one day/week telecommuting pilot program.

      Given the current market conditions where I am, if employers point to pre-pandemic employment conditions rather than real business reasons to return to the office, they’re going to find themselves short on employees and at real risk of losing the most experienced, productive ones.

    2. mlem*

      I’ve worked for my company for 25 years. In the Before Times, I was allowed two WFH days a week, and I was openly pushing for a third day as one way they could compensate for the poor pay and lack of advancement opportunities.

      I’m now WFH full time except for “necessary” meetings and “meaningful” interactions. (They tried requiring 2 days a week for a while, but our retention rates have been plummeting so they lost their nerve and backed off.) Leadership absolutely *wants* to make us go in more, because they’ve convinced themselves that some mythical “innovation” happens only by chatting at water coolers and in cafeterias, but the job market has been forcing them to back down.

  62. The Wizard Rincewind*

    My job is a little different, because we had a hybrid schedule/fully remote employees pre-pandemic. When the pandemic hit, it was relatively easy for most of us to pivot to fully remote and those that couldn’t (groundskeepers, people who needed access to a secure computer) were few enough that as long as they masked/got vaccinated when available, there was space to accommodate that.

    My boss used to talk about bringing everyone back, but once it became clear how much this pandemic had changed everyone’s perspective and lives, he hasn’t brought it up again. Now, it’s up to us if we want to come back or not. Several people in my team have moved out of town and I’m looking to do the same. In the meantime, I’ve come back to the office two days a week because I have my whole office to myself instead of sharing it with the teammates who have moved away. We’re a small organization, which helps.

    I definitely see having the extra space and privacy as a perk I didn’t have before. I bet a lot of people would feel the same. If an organization could balance the people who want to stay home with the people who don’t, I think that could be a real selling point.

  63. LDN Layabout*

    Ours isn’t working but management (so far), isn’t taking a hard line on it. They have warned that eventually the powers that be will likely start forcing people in, so it’s better to start doing it voluntarily on a less frequent basic vs. forced onto what will be a stricter schedule.

    An issue with my job is that a lot of people are based in location X, with much smaller numbers in A, B and C. So people in the smaller locations are (rightfully) wondering why they should come in if all their coworkers are either in location X or wfh.

  64. Web Crawler*

    My company wants people to come back in for “key moments”, like indoor company-wide events with masking encouraged which means only one or two people will wear masks. They’ve also done a bunch of catered food events, in-person “meet the leaders” and other networking events, discounts for a gym in the same office park, and periodic reminders of how nice the office amenities are.

    From what I can tell, it’s not working very well. Most of my 30 person team is local and from what I can tell only one person has gone to an event to get the free book which they were handing out. I’ve got an invisible condition that randomly makes it hard for me to drive. I was able to commute (with a lot of difficulty) when I had no choice, but now I’m never going back.

  65. I Fought the Law*

    They need to pay people what they’re worth and keep up with inflation each year. That’s the biggest problem.

    We’ve come back on a hybrid schedule that I also find problematic. We can’t change our remote days, which are on a set schedule. People need the *flexibility* to work at home while they’re sick or dealing with other issue that require them to be offsite; they don’t necessarily just need to be home a couple days a week. Having two days at home isn’t helpful if my doctor can’t get me in on those days or whatever the case might be.

  66. Lacey*

    My office gave us the choice and several entire departments have chosen to stay WFH, while others have a mix of people in and out of the office.

    And while I live very close by & I enjoy all my co workers & the management, if they asked me to go back I would start looking for a job that would let me work from home again.

    But, on the flip-side, being able to work from home is definitely keeping me at this job, even though I’m definitely underpaid. To be able to not worry about my appearance most days, to be able to pop in a load of laundry during a slow time, or bring a package indoors.
    Nearly priceless.

  67. cynicism*

    What is going to get people back in the office is the coming recession and layoffs, and companies choosing to lay off remote workers first, because out of sight out of mind.

    Or what’s coming is the major contraction of office space leasing, and commercial real estate is like 5% of gdp and employs 8.5 million people.

    Macro issues both that will likely overwhelm micro issues like you don’t want to commute.

    1. shruggie*

      But weren’t there, and aren’t there still, macro issues with working in person? Traffic (–> climate crisis), lack of adequate space to work productively (or even at all, as some comments above indicate), lack of childcare solutions, etc?

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I am not sure how much the employers will care about these issues once they once again have the upper hand in the job market.

        1. shruggie*

          Yeah. Heard. Sigh.

          I just want to at least push against the implied dichotomy that personal issues are micro issues, because they’re not. They affect more than 8.5 billion people, if you wanna quantify it that way. But you’re right, RIT, that they are historically deprioritized, and if/when the pendulum swings the other way, they’re out the window.

    2. mlem*

      My boss isn’t nearly so terrible that “out of sight, out of mind”. She runs metrics and knows I’m her top producer by far. So does *her* boss. They both know who on their teams do and don’t produce, and why, because they have to. (We’ve always been spread across buildings anyway, so this isn’t some new skill they’ve had to develop.) In our group, it’s mostly — not exclusively, but mostly — only the newest hires who wanted more in-office time, and they’ve been as likely to wash out as they have been to impress the bosses.

  68. Ellen*

    My company wants us back three days per week – Tuesday and Wednesday, and then one other day of your choosing. But they also moved to all open-plan cubicles during the pandemic, so they don’t want you sitting at your desk if you’re on a call lasting more than 5 minutes. And they agreed that if you have an early start, you can attend those meetings from home.

    Since my department works across North America and Europe, we are on the phone about five hours per day, often starting at 6:00 or 7:00 am, so, applying the secondary rules, in practice I don’t go in apart from one or two afternoons per week, and when I do I often sit alone and don’t talk to anyone. That said, I do find I’m more productive in the office on those afternoons, so I guess it’s working for now.

  69. Em*

    I’ll start this comment by acknowledging what a privilege it is to be able to dictate what I am and am not willing to do to earn a living- but I started a job search in May 2022 with the criteria that I am not willing to consider jobs that are not fully remote. I have two babies at home (my partner is a stay-at-home-parent), and I just simply enjoy being able to see them in the mornings (no 90 minute commute anymore!), during my lunch break, and when I end work at 6 PM, I get to change into sweatpants and go immediately jump in to bath/bedtime routine. My quality of life is greatly improved by being home and having easy access to my kiddos.

    I think what a lot of companies forget to consider is that the loyalty that my new company has gained from me is valuable- I am extremely happy in my new role because I am 100% remote and it would take A LOT for me to start looking for another job and risk giving up this perk. I work hard and I appreciate my employer because of this benefit.

    Signed,
    A former state employee whose Governor mandated in-person work this year and caused a mass exodus of employees

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Staying remote has been a hard requirement for me to consider a new job for about 8 years now.

      This sums it up nicely. Remote means I get 90-180 minutes of my life back every day; it’s hard to put a price on that.

      My employer also claims I’m significantly more productive (and less disruptive) remote as well.

    2. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Em – I’m so curious if you used to work for the state of starts with a V and ends with irginia :)

    3. J*

      The loyalty issue is huge. I stayed at a job for the first 18 months of the pandemic because they offered a fully remote experience – I even took a nearly 50% cut in pay to stay safe. They suddenly required us to be in office and got rid of masking and opened to the public and within 10 days I was gone. I was willing to be treated like shit by a boss, take a huge cut in pay but as a disabled person I wasn’t willing to be told my safety didn’t matter. My new job will have ongoing loyalty until they mess with my remote employment, but then they’d wipe out my entire (essential) team since none of us live within 1500 miles of HQ.

  70. Dasher Hadwick*

    The issues we’re having right now is that the office is picking and choosing who can WFH/work remote. So there’s a lot of anger at being required to come in when others aren’t. Plus sometimes we have a large amount of downtime, but aren’t allowed to do anything that doesn’t look productive at our desk. Definitely makes everyone want to argue for WFH.

  71. Green Tea*

    My organization has decided to force people back into the office two days a week. As someone with a long commute who mainly interacts via Zoom with out-of-state colleagues, I hate it. I hate the noise of the open office floorplan which impacts my ability to focus. I hate having to either do Zoom calls where everyone can hear or in phone booths with poor wifi. I hate losing 3 hours of my day to commuting after two and a half blissful years of having that time back. I hate spending $20 a day on combined metro parking and metro fare. I hate that my office is masks-optional and the vast majority of people don’t wear masks.

    They’ve given us free swag. I still hate it. Next month they’re planning to do a series of catering and food events, and I will still hate it then.

    If you want to draw people back to the office, I think it’s really important to communicate the business reason for it and make sure it feels worthwhile to your employees. Swag and free food are not a good draw for people in situations like mine, where my work quality and my personal life are both being harmed by being forced back into the office. Have employees go back to the office for specific in-person meetings or workshops, like a monthly collaboration day, not just to be there for the sake of being there.

  72. middlemgmt*

    A reason. That’s what is missing. The CEO moved to hybrid, 3 in/2 out. he thinks this is “generous” but only in relation to what was allowed before the pandemic, which was one day of WFH. he blabs on about collaboration and spontaneous conversations, but fails to realize that most of the people in the office don’t do that. they don’t walk around chatting, they don’t have a ton of meetings. all of that is proportional to how high you are on the ladder. the CEO thinks that he gets a lot of value out of it, and i’m sure he does. but the person doing content updates on the website does not have the same type of workload as the CEO. they are not interfacing and negotiating and hashing out new ideas or partnerships. they are sitting at their desk all day doing concentration work to lay out webpages or troubleshoot, or they are meeting, but by sharing screens, not face to face.

    the policy has also been unevenly implemented, with an intentionally unspoken caveat of ‘individual VPs can do what they want with their department’ so some SVPs including my grandboss are following to the letter, some are more flexible. A few people in my dept have ‘medical exceptions’ to continue to WFH or only come in once we week. my own boss is skeptical of this and constantly comments to me how she thinks it is “unfair” to the rest of the team that she has to allow this, like they will be mad that they can’t stay home too. i don’t think it’s unfair though. i mean, i don’t think my co-workers finding an exception is unfair. if i’m annoyed at anyone it’s at the CEO for implementing this uneven policy to begin with, trying to force us back to the way we were.

    meanwhile, we have 3 open mid-career positions in my department alone and the hiring scene has been dismal. barely any resumes, and what we do get are not qualified. i’m sure that our company’s lack of flexibility on remote work is hurting us, but they still won’t see that as something to change. soon they’ll lose me too. i have an easy commute and i’d be happy to come in sometimes when needed, as i do run a few projects where face-to-face stuff needs to happen. but there are plenty of days where is just sit at my desk all day. there are no spontaneous conversations I would have missed out on. that is a fantasy that management is telling themselves all over the country right now, but it’s about as real as courtroom scenes on tv.

    1. middlemgmt*

      and TBC there is NOTHING they could offer me that would make me feel like that time in the office is worthwhile, if it’s a day where i didn’t have a real need to be there anyway. it would have to be a lot more money in my salary. pay me like a senior vp and then i’ll happily show up like one.

    2. J. Jonah Jameson*

      We’re supposed to be going back part time in a month or so, and I agree that we just don’t have a good reason. My team voted for only in the office when there’s a reason, but we got stuck with 2-3 days a week, in a shared space where (if it goes as described) we literally can’t all be in at the same time to collaborate.

      Plus the mask policy is you don’t have to wear it at your cube desk even if that’s near other people. I am not enthused.

  73. SubjectAvocado*

    We’ve gone hybrid, but have just a handful of people in on any given day unless someone from another branch is visiting. I like coming in, personally– I live alone in a small one-bedroom apartment, which makes it hard for me to segregate work life from personal life, and I find my commute meditative. I understand why the others in my office don’t want to come in, though– we work across several states, have all the tools to collaborate virtually, etc. I think the days of 50%+ of our workforce being in office are just gone. The ease of being at home and not fighting traffic combined with being able to do all your work virtually just aren’t beatable.