return-to office-incentives aren’t working … here’s what workers want

When millions of office employees started working from home in 2020, the plan for most was eventually to return to work, not stay remote forever. But two and a half years later, many really don’t want to go back to the office, and companies are struggling to figure out how to convince them to return, offering enticements like free food, prizes, and even alcoholic beverages.

At Slate today, I wrote about how companies are trying to lure workers back … and what it will really take to do it. You can read it here.

{ 453 comments… read them below }

  1. Ness*

    My project teams are spread out across several offices in different states, so it feels REALLY pointless to commute to work and sit in a cubicle all day just to communicate with other people via email and Teams calls. Some in-office days, I don’t speak to a single other person in the office besides saying good morning.

    I think Step 1 is for companies to think carefully about who needs to be in the office and who doesn’t, rather than trying to implement uniform policies across the board.

    1. CLC*

      Same. Prepandemic 90% of meetings were calls with teams in another state. I do miss a lot of aspects of being in the office, but the whole situation is just not the same now. I don’t see a reason to go in.

    2. Annie Mouse*

      Same. I’m the only person on my team located in the US, and very few of the people I interact with are in my state. I [sometimes] drag myself in for the mandated once weekly in-office day, only to sit in an ice cold office on Teams calls. It just boils down to the why. If someone could give me a reason that it is good for the business for me to be there in person, I’d be there with bells on. The reality is that there is no business reason, other than the higher-ups are trying to justify the real estate expense.

        1. Epsilon*

          Honestly, I think most people would disagree that constitutes as a good enough reason. Particularly when weighing it against the immense quality of life improvements this situation has had on so many.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          Cities could and should rezone downtowns for mixed-used buildings, and developers could and should convert vacant office space into apartments. Doesn’t America have a housing crisis to solve?

        3. Anon, Good Nurse*

          I mean, unless your employer is in commercial real estate they don’t particularly care about this one. But I do know someone who is voluntarily the literal only person going into an office because they are still stuck in their pre-pandemic lease for I think another seven months, haha. I’m willing to bet some employers aren’t like his that will just eat it.

    3. Annony*

      Yep. We all know if we need to be in the office to do our jobs well. I need to go in for part of mine but other days I am more productive from home. My husband is never more productive in the office. The only part he can’t do from home is client visits, which is not in the office anyway. There are no incentives that will make people want to come back other than providing the tools and environment that help us do our job better from the office than from home.

    4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      This is where my team is at. We all live in different states. While I am technically within driving distance of one of the company locations, it’s a completely different division, I would literally be driving 30-40 min to be on Teams calls all day and not talk to a single person in the building.

      Our grand boss has talked about having in office work weeks 1-2 times a year where everyone comes together at one location. I’m fine with that, but on a regular basis just to be in a company building is completely pointless.

    5. Lacey*

      Similar situation. I do the majority of my collaborating with people in other cities or states. Even the local people I collaborate with are in another office in the same town and I’ve only met a handful of them.

      The people I saw in the office every day were people who also collaborate with those teams.
      We were all in one building because we had similar office needs, but once we started working from home it didn’t make sense to force us back. And to my company’s credit, they didn’t. Some people chose to go back to the office and the rest stayed home.

    6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Same here, with project team members all over the place.
      And since we have cubicles and very limited (if any) access to spaces with doors, we’d all just be having our video calls from our desks.

      1. Hats Are Great*

        Yes, this is the WORST. I can sit at home in my comfortable pants and take calls privately and work in silence, OR I can go sit in an office and try to take calls while listening to 30 other people take calls at the same time, all of us talking to people across the country on totally different teams, and then try to write while everyone keeps talking. MAKES SENSE.

        1. Rosalind Franklin*

          The best is sitting with your team – we do back to back calls so really no time to switch back and forth to conference rooms. So we end up on calls together hearing The Echo – your teammate’s voice, followed by your teammate’s voice’s lag on the call. It’s the worst, it gives me a huge headache.

    7. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

      Exactly this.

      One client forces me on site two days a week to keep my job, and we time this so all the team are in the office at the same time.

      Our meetings are all held from our desks using webcams and headsets.

      This is not just the same as working from home, it is massively worse, as it is so much noisier, and frankly my internet is faster at home than in their (other than me) entirely unmasked office full of people coughing.

      I am >this< close to just refusing to come in any more and daring them to fire me for it.

    8. Green Goose*

      Yeah, our company recently said everyone is required to be full time in the office and we have like 2-3 phone rooms and I’m in meetings with off-site people for at least 50% of the day. Where will I take my meetings? I also just can’t give up and additional two hours of my day commuting when I have kids and daycare. Hopefully it will not be enforced but we’ll see.

    9. turquoisecow*

      This is my husband. We’re in NY and if he went to an office he’d commute into the city, but his boss is in CA, his grand boss is in VA and his direct reports are in NY, TX, and MA. There’s no real benefit to him being in an office, unless there’s someone on another team who is visiting that he wants to meet with, especially since he has a really good remote office set up.

      His company has been pushing people to go back to the office, but almost every time that happened, he’d hear about a Covid outbreak. Thankfully his boss and grand boss both explicitly told him not to worry about it, as neither of them is going to an office regularly either.

    10. NeedBubbleTea*

      I work at a university, but pre-covid my group (as well as most of IT) worked out of a data center in a totally separate location, about 20 min drive away from campus. Most meetings were done virtually even then. After covid, we relocated to campus, but so many of our clients, both internal and external to IT, had various hybrid schedules, or shifted to 100% remote, that you still couldn’t get anyone in the same room. So it just didn’t make sense to keep my team coming in each week when we never met in person with anyone. Plus, all of our work is done remotely, either on servers, apps, etc, so we have no need to physically touch anything.

      I recently let my team start working 100% remote (I had been pushing for it for a while and got permission from above), and they all jumped for it. They did say they would like about a once-a-month in-person team meeting, which is very doable and I think is good for our team cohesion, but it was just pointless to be here all the time when no one else is.

    11. talos*

      Yes, absolutely this. At my old job I never went in because I would have to sit in my cubicle and have Zoom calls with people in other countries for hours per day. Never even in a conference room because somehow we never figured out how to get conference room mics/cameras working well, and our 600-person building only had 2 zoom-capable rooms that were bookable by ICs. I did not work with anyone in my building, so the only conversations I had were small talk with people I used to work with and strangers. Why bother driving to work for that?

    12. Ari*

      Same for the last ten years. I’ve never met a single supervisor or peer or direct report in person during that whole time. We have always had to use tools like Teams and Skype to communicate, yet our organization is very productive.

    13. Feeling like I am taking crazy pills*

      This is not just happening in the private sector. We city employees were mandated back in the office (Last August 2021!) full time by the mayor. Not only did we have huge waves of people being sick, the reasons we were told we must be in the office are vague. “Helping the economy” (so me having to buy a $15 salad for lunch is going to fix the economy?? I was helping the economy near my home before, which arguably needed the help more). “Cooperation and idea building” (no one on my team actually sits in the same building as me. Won’t run into them at the water cooler. Also, many government jobs are very stay in your lane and collaboration just isn’t a part of the job) And finally, “mental health improvement” (this is the biggest crock. Peoples’ mental health improves with work from home and no commute.) I have suggested many times that we simply stop showing up in person. Because of the recent mass exodus of personnel over this policy and union protections, what will the mayor do, fire us all and leave the city crippled?

      1. Lanlan*

        “this is the biggest crock. Peoples’ mental health improves with work from home and no commute.”

        Respectfully, your mental health improved with WFH and no commute. I am one of those people who spent COVID going stir-crazy because where were the people? I’ll put up with a commute if I can have my team.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. The impact on mental health is very variable. An awful lot of my colleagues had real mental health struggles in lockdown especially those living in less than ideal situations where working from home was more challenging (those in flat shares with sub-optimal remote working space). My company actually re-opened the office early for some people who really wanted to go back for mental health reasons.

          1. pamela voorhees*

            I think this is a lot of it. Previously, “normal” favored one type of person — someone who loves to be around people, loves the hubbub of an office, loves all of that interaction, etc. Then, all of a sudden, “normal” favored the exact opposite type of person — someone who does well by themselves, someone who needs minimal amount of interaction, someone who likes quiet. Now, both types of people are fighting for their kind of normal to become the new standard, when the truth is that both people are going to have to compromise – even though they don’t want to, because they’ve had a taste of “only their way” and they don’t want to give it up.

        2. GreenCrayon*

          Respectfully, it sounds like there might be additional mental health concerns that may need to be addressed. Going into the office because you got stir crazy is putting a bandaid to ignore addressing the root of the issue. You might have to use other outlets than you are use to using.

          1. yuck*

            Really? Because humans evolved in one generation to be content looking at computer screens alone all day? I’m a serious introvert and would be perfectly content to never see another human being again but I don’t consider that normal. Solitary confinement is considered cruel for a reason and isolation is bad for most humans – often driving those who start out sane absolutely crazy.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes. Also part of the issue with lockdown (at least in the UK) was the lack of other outlets. We weren’t allowed to meet up with people, everything was shut and we were pretty much confined and deprived of a lot of the usual outlets people had. That isn’t generally good for mental health. Going into the office was one of the few things people were allowed to do apart from buying groceries. If you had a tiny studio flat or a house share with only a bedroom as private space, it was pretty difficult so I’m not surprised a number of people found it challenging mentally.

              It’s a lot different being able to choose whether to work from home from being compelled to work from home.

              What leads to good mental health is really variable and it’s not possible to say that in general mental health is improved by working from home. For some people it is, for others it isn’t.

            2. Allison in Wonderland*

              Work shouldn’t be our main source of social interaction, though. Working from home allows me to save my social energy for interacting with friends and family outside of work. If I have to go into the noisy office and talk to people there all day, then I’m exhausted at the end of the day and my personal life suffers.

    14. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. If your team is largely elsewhere/another time zone it doesn’t make sense for you to be in person somewhere just to say you did. My job makes sense for me to be here most of the week. I have genuine interactions and things I cannot do remotely. But for some other coworkers? Why are they even here?

    15. Koalafied*

      So much this. It feels like I’m being robbed when I have to fork over $25 for parking in our building and 90 minutes of roundtrip commute time just to Zoom from a hot desk in the office instead of my own desk at home.

      And that’s just hard time/money costs before even getting into things like having to either hire a dog walker or rush straight home at 5 exactly so my dog doesn’t have to hold her bladder for more than 9 hours, or the fact that my home office has better equipment that’s more customized to my needs than the standard hot desk setup in the office, or that my house has fewer distractions, a bathroom mere steps from my desk instead of having to walk across an entire building, and an HVAC system I control.

      When I was considering leaving my job last year and interviewing at a couple of places, I really sat and thought about what it would take for me to accept a job that required me to be in the office. The answer is a salary of at least $15,000 more per year than I currently make with my 99% remote job with no reduction in benefits or increase in responsibility.

    16. Brain the Brian*

      100% this. The vast majority of the colleagues with whom I work closely live in countries eight or nine hours ahead of me, and the notion that I need to somehow schedule early-morning calls with them around a commute instead of just working from home is thoroughly ridiculous. Thankfully, we only need to go into the office once per week… at least for now.

    17. Tara*

      I work remotely in one state but flew to another for an in office week. Even when the people I was meeting with were in the office we called into the meetings because 1) most people are going from one meeting to another and it’s much easier to do that online, and 2) so many meetings include remote participants that the norm is to include a meeting link, so people don’t consider if they could meet in person for one particular meeting, and don’t bother scheduling a conference room. I enjoyed being there and grabbing some lunches with colleagues or bumping into folks in the hallway, but no question that I wouldn’t accept a full time in person position again.

    18. LittleMarshmallow*

      4 of us from my location (we are in office – for good reason… lab/manufacturing type work) were on a call today with a colleague from another state. She didn’t know at first we were all together because we only had two cameras on, but when she found out she said she was jealous because she was working from home. Haha. I totally agree that not everyone should have to go back in office and it makes total sense to wfh if all you’re colleagues are remote.

      We have been starting to shift back to having our meetings in person for anyone that’s on-site. We sorta got in the habit of conference calling when all of us were in the same small building… sometimes with desks in the same room. We don’t have any high risk people that don’t want to be in a conf room… we just got used to calls all the time. It’s taking time to shift back. I’m sure all groups are different but mine does better meetings when we can see each other’s faces in person. There a lot of nuance missed by not being able to make eye contact with people in a way you can’t on a multi person conf call even with cameras on.

    19. Katie*

      I have a similar situation except my people are across the world. My manager and everyone up the chain isn’t near me. The only one that does is the person who reports to me.
      It was nice every once in a while (like once a quarter) to see people but beyond that, pointless.

    20. Miette*

      I mean really! I work as a contractor and all of my clients mandate 2 or 3 days per week in the office. I am remote because of distance (one of them is on another continent). Every meeting with each of these companies is a bunch of people calling into Teams from their desks, regardless of where they physically are–so what’s the point of being in the office then? It’s not the “collaboration,” that’s for sure.

    21. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Honestly, I work for a state agency in Virginia, and our governor mandated we all come back in person (and communicated it very poorly, I might add). I did get approved for two telework days a week. That said, most days I am in the office, I do not interact with anyone in person, and when I do, it usually is just saying hi and chatting and not job related. We do have some job responsibilities like hearings and meetings that require us to be in the office, but that would be more like three or four days per month than per week. It does not make sense.

  2. Unkempt Flatware*

    Not only am I not going back to the office, I’m brazen enough to have told my current employer, “sure, sure–I’ll totally move there within a year” and I have no intention of selling and moving. If they can handle remote work for a year, they can handle remote work forever. I just don’t feel bad about this. As long as employers get to advertise a job as remote when it actually means remote when you’re sick or something, I feel fine playing my game.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        The former, I guess. No tax issues. But his reasons for me to come in are literally so we can brainstorm together or because he doesn’t like talking on the phone or zoom. I drive up 2 hours one way to do the same thing I do from home. It makes me crazy.

      2. Mid*

        If they have deal with the tax issue for a year, they can deal with it forever, so it doesn’t really matter.

        1. mlem*

          I think tax enforcement was relaxed during the declared emergency. While states *can* choose not to enforce forever … they won’t.

    1. Loulou*

      but if you’re so sure they can handle you being remote forever (meaning, won’t fire you when they realize you have been lying about this), why not say you’ll be continuing remotely instead of claiming you’ll move on a false timeline? honestly, good for you if this is working out, but this would stress me out so much!

        1. Katalyst*

          …and have enough work history for a job change or unemployment claim or FMLA if something horrible happens…

      1. Momma Bear*

        If it’s already been a year, they have the proof they need that this person is/is not productive at home. I don’t like the lie. Either ask to go FT remote, or get a job that is FT remote if they say no. Telling them you will when you won’t is not necessary.

    2. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

      I’m facing this from clients who have strict policies about working outside the country of contract.

      Tax law greatly lags behind technology and culture: there are cases that have established that having a single worker WFH was enough to create a permanent establishment for the company in that country.

      While I am not a tax lawyer in any jurisdiction… that seems wrongly decided to me, unless the worker was the CEO or someone else at the C-suite who might be argued to be closely directing the company’s operations from that location.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Oh yeah, that’s going to have to change at some point. We have similar things in the states and it is definitely starting to wear on companies & employees.

        1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

          It took forever to learn exactly what the objection was. I had a killer set of counters to every objection and didn’t understand why the issue didn’t go away.

          I never actually learned it from either client, FYI. It wasn’t until I started looking into expanding into the EU and found out about permanent establishment and how that works.

          Some company with a lot of lawyers is going to fight this all the way to the top court in most countries and then we’ll see an end to it.

  3. Meep*

    I really feel like companies shot themselves in the foot when they decided to give pay cuts to those who wanted to continue to work remotely. People learned that they were still saving resources like time and money even with the pay cut.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I saved roughly $1000 a month working remotely. Mostly gas.

      Some stupid article in WSJ was trying to convince people that it cost MORE to work from home (citing electric bill, internet, heating, food, toilet paper, etc.) but honestly, this was a big fat lie. The amount of electricity used during WFH is very negligible at best. As for heating, my house stays at 67 degrees in winter whether I’m there or not. Ok, maybe they got me on the TP use even though I always tried to refrain from being the work toilet stink or clogger bandit. LOL!

      1. Mid*

        I have a walking commute, so gas wasn’t an issue, and to get out of the house, I developed a routine that involves fancy lattes from a local coffee shop, and I *still* saved money by working from home. Mostly because I value my time!

      2. Lacey*

        Even not saving anything, I love working from home that much.

        It was a short commute, so it’s not a huge gas savings and it’s probably off-set by the extra essentials that I have to buy for myself. But the extra time, being able to sign for packages or let the repair guy in without taking a day off work is worth so much more.

        1. Hats Are Great*

          Being able to pop over to my kid’s kindergarten to be story reader for 20 minutes in the middle of the day, instead of having to take a half-day because I have to commute all the way downtown.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Being able to sweep or pace while on a no cameras conference call is something I will not give up lightly. I think better when I am moving

      3. Loulou*

        it would be a pretty big additional expense for me to run AC all day in the summer! it would probably still come out less than my commute but it’s just not true that it’s nothing.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’m in an AC needed place (AZ) and it didn’t make much of a difference since we always ran it at 78 for the pets and also run it at 78 for me. I run cold so this is the first time in my life the temp in my office was good for me

      4. Dawn*

        I’m not in America, but I also get to claim a majority of my WFH expenses on my taxes; I got over $4000 back last year, up from maybe $500ish when I was in the office. I’d be taking a significant pay cut if I went back in.

      5. Persnickity*

        Same for me. And throw in not needing consistent professional or business casual attire, I am saving a bunch.

      6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Food? I’m not a plant that can be nourished by fluorescent lighting and water. Pretty much eat lunch no matter where I am.

        1. Loulou*

          LOL I think this is assuming you’d buy lunch out if you commute to the office, whereas you’d eat lunch you cooked yourself when WFH. if you are someone who always packs a lunch you might not see the savings, but for me my daily lunches are by far my biggest work associated expense!

          1. Annie Mouse*

            This is probably overly granular, but even if you do bring lunch, you’re more likely to bring smaller packages and convenience foods commuting than you would if you’re cooking and eating at home. Plus coffee/soda/water isn’t free in all offices.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I can eat all of my leftovers without worrying about smell. We eat a ton of fish so it has saved me bank being able to eat it for lunch

          2. tangerineRose*

            I used to bring lunch, but it’s much more of a pain. It requires planning and bringing things and in one case finding out that a co-worker liked to sniff other people’s food, which was concerning.

          3. Very Social*

            If the WSJ is saying it costs more to work from home, and one of the factors is food… I have to assume that they think all offices provide free food.

      7. Katalyst*

        #SAME I was at about half that (mass transit & parking at the station) but the TIME and the stress and uncertainty of the commute was at least as much the issue for me.
        The RTO pressure felt so so much like out of touch Grandma-really-wants-us-all-at-Church vibes…
        We knew they wanted it, but strength in numbers (and job market) meant our wanting NOT actually meant something

      8. tangerineRose*

        I have kitties at home, so I was keeping the temperature at a reasonable rate even when I wasn’t home.

        Plus, with the cost of gas lately, it’s even better to not drive as much.

      9. Nutella and banana on toast*

        Get a bidet, best money we spend when the TP ran low. I don’t have a number for what we have saved but when the pandemic hit it we were looking for a new vehicle and with us both working from home and not having the long commute we were able to replace with a low mileage used car. Our biggest savings is time and getting to eat at home because we have time to cook now.

  4. Amber Rose*

    If you’re offering me puppies to come back to work, that’s nice, but what you’re really telling me is that you don’t have a good reason for me to be there so you have to come up with a silly one.

    And I’m going to choose to save stress, gas and laundry over a silly reason every. Single. Time.

    I say that as someone who literally has good reasons to be in the office and therefore comes to the friggin office even though I’d rather be at home in sweatpants.

    1. Anonym*

      Really good point. My company hasn’t gone for silly reasons, but they’re sticking with nebulous assertions (“it’s better this way!” essentially), and I’m equally unpersuaded.

      I will be leaving if they continue to insist on 3x/week in office. Reluctantly, sadly, and with a great deal of frustration, but I will be leaving.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        We’ve been told it’s good for collaboration. Which seems to imply that we haven’t been collaborating as well… But nobody has come out and said it.

        Doesn’t help that the people I’d be collaborating with are all over the place and we did conference calls even in the Before Times.

        1. tessa*

          Yeah, that’s what we’re told. Also, “People won’t accept positions if they interview online instead of in person.”

          I’d like to see that data, because after I interviewed, I don’t recall getting a survey about whether my interviewing online would be a factor in my accepting the role. (I’d also like to see the data on in-person working being a statistically-richer experience than working online. For some people, sure, but for a lot of us…hell to the no. Nothing personal, but come on…).

          1. MigraineMonth*

            For my current job, I had the first interview in person in Feb 2020. They tried to postpone the second interview until the whole COVID thing blew over, but eventually allowed a virtual interview.

            To this day, that first interview is the only time I entered that office. After years of return-to-office plans, my org gave up this year and is allowing permanent WFH.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I started my current job during the pandemic when all interviews were virtual and I literally did not step inside this building until my first day, so that feels like a particularly flimsy excuse.

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

      “If you’re offering me puppies to come back to work, that’s nice, but what you’re really telling me is that you don’t have a good reason for me to be there so you have to come up with a silly one.” Well put.

    3. Vio*

      And even if an adoptable puppy does get you to turn up at the office… who is going to adopt a puppy every day? Even if it’s only once a week, that’s over fifty dogs a year! Do they plan to hold anyone hostage who does turn up and make sure they never go home again? Or perhaps the following week they just offer free dog food to those who turn up…

      1. bookworm*

        not to mention that once you adopt a puppy it becomes that much more impractical and expensive to commute to the office…

        1. sofar*

          This, exactly this. Many of my coworkers who do show up leave at 1 p.m. and work the rest of the day from home so they don’t have to pay a dog walker to come out.

    4. Allonge*

      Yes, this is ridiculous. I appreciate that for us it was not a negotiation: we have new rules, the were explained to everyone, and the ‘why’ was not really a discussion. It’s not a democracy – management gets to decide what they want to see and staff gets to decide if that works for us or not.

      All in all, if someone hates the idea, nothing will logic them to return. I appreciate being treated as an adult in the meanwhile.

  5. germank106*

    My first question would be why companies would want their workers back in the office? As long as productivity doesn’t take a nosedive, working from home is not a bad thing. I think a lot of Execs still think that working from home does not give them the control they seem to crave. I used to work a hybrid schedule before the pandemic and went to fully remote in April of 2020. Productivity is up nearly 30% for my Department and we get a small stipend for office supplies, etc.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      The control is the exact one thing they miss and the one thing they just won’t say. I’d lose less respect for my boss if he just said, “so I can monitor you!” rather than all the BS excuses he gives me for why I need to be in the office. Notice that I said I’d lose less respect than have more respect smh.

      1. Et ux*

        Or “because I really enjoy seeing a whole office full of people working away!” which is almost literally a reason my boss gave. He’s a workaholic.

          1. Paper Mulberry*

            And then attach the cutouts to a model train that runs in a circle while Jingle Bell Rock plays in the background.

      2. Green Goose*

        So true, we were told a lot of dated buzzword-y things about “collaboration” and “we’re in person!” but then when people started asking very specific logistical questions all of a sudden it was crickets but still an expectation that we return. It’s sooooo obviously about control but it’s the elephant in the room.

    2. Reality Check*

      In our case, they don’t trust us. We know this because we overhead them talking about it. I think that’s probably a big one.

    3. Everything Bagel*

      Sunk costs. In my case, my company had already started construction on a new building before the pandemic started. We were always going to move to the new building with its new open office plan that everybody was dreading to begin with. because of that, I knew we would have to go back. If I had to go back one day a week to collect mail and drop off anything, that would be fine. But mandatory 3 days in the office for no reason is ridiculous.

        1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

          That’s… strange, though. A sunk cost by definition is present in every possible option and so is useless for helping decide between them.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Yeah, the sunk cost fallacy says that it is irrational to factor a sunk cost into your decision. But a lot of people fall victim to the fallacy, because emotionally they can’t let go of the sunk costs so there are company executives demanding employees work out of already-paid-for offices.

      1. sofar*

        I wonder, for the companies who lease, once their leases run out, if they’ll just pay for some WeWork space for those who want to come in/the few meetings that need to be in person. I’d actually LOVE that, personally … I get an office to work in a few days a week to get out of the house, but the flexibility to … also not.

        1. Unaccountably*

          I’d love that too. Or an office space with offices and conference rooms you can book. I already cart my laptop back and forth every day, I can stick my coffee mug and a notebook in my bag with it.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        In the case of my company (a nonprofit that has lots of US govt contracts), we are stuck in long-term office leases and our largest client (the US govt) will only reimburse us for the overhead costs of “occupied” office space. My manager (a C-suite exec) would really like us to just keep working remotely forever, but that’s sadly not going to be the case since we need to prove that our offices are “occupied.”

    4. Lacey*

      I think you’re probably right. They think they can’t manage that way.

      My boss used to be like that, even though he’s super hands-off no matter where we are!
      Once he saw how smoothly and efficiently we worked from home he was on board with us doing that forever.

    5. irene adler*

      I think middle managers fear for their jobs as, with WFH, there’s literally no one at the site to manage. So why continue to employ them?

      Sure, the tasks do have to be managed efficiently. So some middle management is needed.

    6. Firm Believer*

      Unfortunately not everyone is more productive working from home. I’ve terminated more people over the past three years for lack of performance than in the entire history of my business. I had one person unreachable for an entire day a few weeks ago so he’ll likely be next.

      1. Pisces*

        I would love an AAM post on this perspective, which I can’t recall having seen already. What employers have done – or not – about employees who clearly aren’t cutting it, or are exploiting gaps in WFH. If I’m wrong, someone please let me know.

        For instance, I know of a government employee who got busted violating his agency’s hard requirement to remote-connect only from a home-based Internet connection.

        I’ve also seen people quit answering their phones and ignore or delay responding to emails, because at home colleagues can’t come over to their desks or offices when they don’t respond.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s everything I write here about managing in general — you need to hold people to clear expectations, stay engaged/pay attention to what you’re seeing from people and what results they are/aren’t getting in their work, address problems forthrightly, and be willing to impose consequences, including firing, when people aren’t meeting their job requirements. If you’re looking for something specific to remote work, this recent one gets into that:

      2. Momma Bear*

        This is definitely a problem. People need to be evaluated on their productivity and even if they are remote most of the time be willing to flex when the project needs it. One of the reasons my company is so anti WFH is because someone collected a paycheck for a year (well before the pandemic) and then left at the end of the project having done little to nothing. It’s made the C-suite understandably leery. Managers also need to figure out how to manage without being too intrusive.

        1. Fishsticks*

          That sounds like a serious breach in management – even working remotely, it should be clear LONG before a year is up that work isn’t getting done.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I wonder if they would have been/ever were productive? If someone doesn’t get their work done without being actively monitored they sound like dead weight and a hassle to manager. It is probably better to fire folks like this and hire in people who can and will manage their time unmonitored than to drag everyone back in the office because you need to micromanage a few low performers.

      4. Starbuck*

        I mean, there have been some pretty exceptional factors over the past three years that also could have been negatively impacting performance, rather than just working from home. Just a thought!

    7. Tired*

      Some of my colleagues & coworkers are extroverts who greatly resent screens & calls and prefer to stand around and gossip before during & after meetings (which involve trekking all over the campus…) – and no one wears masks, the ventilation is terrible, & I have to get up super early to park near the office…

    8. Snarkus Aurelius*

      My boss hates the lack of control and the flexibility that teleworkers enjoy.

      “We’re not paying them to get groceries or do laundry or pick up kids, but I know damn well that’s what they’re doing.”

      You’re not getting paid to go to the bathroom, walk to and from your car, stuff your face whenever there’s a cake, and yap to your assistant about how difficult your life is either…

      1. Fishsticks*

        Yep. I had a job that was work from home towards the end, and oh man did my boss go on endless rants about how people who work from home always waste half their day doing laundry or watching TV.

        Hilariously, I didn’t – I clicked in and out based on when I was actually working, clocked out for lunch, was careful. My boss, meanwhile, would routinely “work from home” for a day and spend it doing all the things she was constantly accusing me and my supervisor of doing. It was just 100% projection. SHE didn’t know how to manage her time at home and thought she could pretend it was everyone else’s problem, not hers.

        1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

          I wish I could give a thumbs up because I do believe this is the case.

          I am always careful to let people know if I’m tied up, keep regular hours, and respond within 15 minutes or so to calls and most emails. Too bad the managers don’t do the same!

          1. Fishsticks*

            I won’t say I didn’t take a shower during the day now and then – but I clocked out first, and clocked back in once I was ready to sit back down. Then added that fifteen minutes or whatever to my workday, staying a few extra minutes at the end. And it never once affected me getting my work done by deadline.

            What DID make it harder to meet deadlines was my boss constantly complaining to me about how “nobody wants to work anymore” and demanding I come in personally so she could… see me sit at a laptop all day in the middle of an open retail environment that was hideously distracting and full of her talking at full volume about the Keto diet being a cure for diabetes.

            Man, I wish I was exaggerating about that.

          2. Windchime*

            I’m retired now, but my last job went entirely WFH at the beginning of the pandemic. They got out of the lease on several buildings (downtown Seattle — $$$) and consolidated all the office space into a couple of floors of one building with some “hot desk” hookups for those who wanted to come in occasionally.

            All teams were different, but expectations on my team were clear: We had to have a fairly reliable schedule, we had to be available via Teams or phone during our work hours, and we had to notify the team if we were going to be away. Want to run to Starbucks or a doc appointment? Cool! Just let the team know that you will be away for a bit and set your status to “away”. I think that people disappearing for hours or not getting work done would have been dealt with swiftly. But I had a really good manager who trusted us (but was non-BS also).

      2. Unaccountably*

        That’s such an awful, crabs-in-a-bucket mindset. God forbid your boss just go to work and do their job without trying to write “Punish people for everything arbitrarily” into their job description.

    9. Saraquill*

      When Oldboss insisted I return to the office, it wasn’t long before the environment was full of micromanagement and screaming fits. He even phased me out of the assignments he insisted I needed to be in the office to complete. It likely was a desire for control on his part.

    10. works with realtors*

      Our company’s board of directors wants us back because we got an office remodel during the pandemic and they hate the idea of spending that money, plus rent, for us to “only” be there 2 days a week. At least they’re transparent about it, I guess?

    11. Important Moi*

      There are people in management who miss being surrounded by people who have to defer to them. I’ve seen articles about this.

  6. Dundundah*

    I’m curious if anyone thinks the energy crisis will have an impact? Do you think the cost of having to heat home during the day will push people back into the office as we head into winter?

    1. DarthVelma*

      I think that depends on a lot of factors. How expensive gas is where people are. How good the public transportation system is. Whether folks would already be leaving the heat on for other family members/pets anyway.

      For me, I live in a hot climate and my air conditioning bill has played no part in my decision not to go into the office yet. So the heating bill won’t either.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        And if you live somewhere that gets truly cold, you still have to heat your residence. Unless you enjoy burst pipes.

        My heat is included in my rent, so it’s a wash for me anyway. But it’s much nicer to be home when there’s tons of snow or subzero temps than to dress for work & go to the office.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          The hassle of getting up early to shovel the driveway, brush the snow off the car, drive slowly through unplowed streets, strip all the extra layers off once you’re in the office, and change from the outside shoes to the inside ones – I hate it so much.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            Yeah, this. Plus it’s pitch-black both the mornings and evenings, which is not only depressing but also dangerous. My coworkers and I recently asked our CEO (who works in a different state most of the year) to beef up security because the panhandlers outside our office are getting more and more aggressive in broad daylight, and there’s absolutely no way I’m putting up with that in the dark.

            (I deeply hope that the Daylight Savings Time bill passes soon, I would really like for 2023 to be the last year I have to deal with the dark on both ends of the work day.)

          2. J*

            It is so much nicer to be able to quickly clear my sidewalks, jump back inside and take a hot shower, log in and then keep an eye on the sidewalk situation so I can stay on top of it all day. Previously I had to be up at like 4 am and shoveling in the dark just to arrive at work and walk on uncleared sidewalks and then get home in the dark to find my sidewalks covered and once again have to clear them in the dark. Plus add in the commuting in the snow, and I’m just one street from a snow route but my work was not. The 3 mile drive took 40 minutes sometimes in the winter, plus the fall risk (which absolutely happened once). I also have a lung condition that activates in the wind chill and by January 2020 I actually had started taking sick days just to avoid it. Now that I’m work at home and can control my outside time in commuting/shoveling I haven’t had a single lung issue since that week in January. Winter work is so much better now, even in my drafty old home.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Plus the stress of commuting when the weather is iffy makes a huge difference.
          If I can be home, see the snow falling, head out to clear my car, driveway when it makes sense to (like at 10 am when the storm has died down and the temps, sun help loosen things instead of 6:30 when it’s actively snowing and much colder so I’m having to chip ice) and can go out and clear the end of the driveway after the plow goes by, instead of coming home at 6:30 to find the end of my driveway blocked by 3 feet of heavy plow snow frozen solid because temps fell after dark, I’ve gained hours in my day and lost a ton of stress and effort.
          And that’s before you get into the avoiding spinning out, other people spinning out, other accidents, and traffic jams that invariably come up when there is weather in my neck of the woods.

        3. Autumnheart*

          I live somewhere that gets truly cold in the winter, and when I’m WFH, the best benefit is NOT having to risk the roads in winter weather! It’s one thing when the roads are dry and clear, but if there’s a snowfall or ice accumulation, traffic takes forever and it’s quite dangerous besides. I can’t think of a good reason why I need to literally risk my life and spend an extra hour (or two!) in traffic, just so people can see me in the office. It would be more productive for me to stay home.

        4. Chirpy*

          I’m just remembering the time we had a horrible cold snap (-60 F) and even fast food places were shutting down the afternoon before because it was predicted to be so dangerous, but my manager wanted everyone in anyway….it cost me a lot of money in car repair because I tried…

      2. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        I think the cost of heating and electricity used during WFH is very negligible at best.

        I mean, it might be like $20-$25 more in winter, but hey that still beats a 2 hour commute on snowy roads and $5/gallon for gas. If you have pets, you’re probably going to keep your home or apartment the same temperature. I personally keep my home at 67 degrees whether I’m there or not, and use a little Eden Pure space heater in my office if I get cold.

      3. Lacey*

        Yeah, I’d be leaving the heat on for my dog anyway.

        And even before, when I did turn the heat down during the day
        1. It can only get turned down so far before you’re freezing your pipes
        2. My commute was doubled whenever it snowed (a lot) so I was surely spending any savings and more on gas – with the added stress of trying to drive in that weather!

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      No. Not a bit. I live in the hottest city in North America where we’d die without an hour of air conditioning and we suffered through a horrendous summer and no one in my life thought the better solution would be to go into the office.

      1. Meep*

        Unless the AC breaks. lol. I’ve done that a couple of times, but the AC is more likely to break in our office. (To which I worked from home)

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          IT ME. I don’t have central air, and I don’t really WANT central air. I have a window unit in the bedroom and that’s it. Now that it is fall I am back to my hybrid wfh schedule, but I went in every day over the summer.

          I also live less than 2 miles from my office and frequently bike commute this time of year.

          1. Tau*

            I’ve never met anyone with A/C in their private home here, and this summer was… pretty miserable for everyone. I would not be at all surprised if people went to the office to flee from the heat, I know it was a criterion for me. Beats sitting in video calls in the dark because you have the curtains closed as a last-ditch measure to keep the sun out.

            1. Foley*

              I know people who did this in Germany. Home with no A/C was miserable. But so was hot desking in a loud environment even with A/C. That felt like a lose/lose situation.

            2. UKDancer*

              I know I certainly did. We had unusually excessive heat this summer on a few occasions in London and my office was exceptionally busy those days because a lot of people preferred to come into the office where it was air conditioned over working from home which mostly isn’t.

          2. AsPerElaine*

            Summer 2021 we went in on the worst days. Summer 2022 was hotter, but also the numbers were much higher, and I stayed home and was miserable. We’re hopefully getting heat pumps this winter, and can stay home summer 2023 in something approximating comfort.

    3. EPLawyer*

      you are still going to have to heat your home to some degree in the winter. the difference is do you pay to heat your home while you are not there, or do you pay to heat your home while you are there? At least if you are home, you can throw on an extra sweater or something if you are cold. In the office, you gotta freeze if you don’t have extra clothing and space heaters are not allowed.

      Plus what you save in gas, car maintenance, even car insurance (seriously folks CHECK what you put for average mileage if you are not commuting now) might make up for the cost of heating your home.

      1. Tau*

        But there’s a pretty big difference between heating it so your pipes don’t freeze and heating it in such a way that you can sit and work comfortably at a desk. My home office is in my bedroom and it’s actually a real issue – I prefer to sleep relatively cool and would typically only be heating it to no-structural-risk level, but trying to work like that would be neverending misery.

        I’m someone who likes working in the office anyway, but I’ve been around 3 days office/2 days home to save myself the (public transport) commute. I’m seriously considering going back to 100% in-office over the winter to save on heating. It’s not a ridiculous idea.

        1. EPLawyer*

          It’s not one size fits all. Some people are going to be fine with paying for heat — and might even STILL come out on savings. Other people are going to want to go in so they can save on heating.

          Just like some people LOVE being in the office, and others you will have to drag them in by their hair to ever get them back in.

          FLEXIBILITY is key here. Don’t insist on butts in the seat just because. If its a all hands on deck meeting to do the big rollout — sure people need to be in the office (an example again maybe not necessary in person). But if the job does not require it then don’t make it a requirement that people HAVE to be in the office. And be kind to those whose job DOES require in office.

        2. itsame*

          Depending on the house and your tolerance for cold there really isn’t that big a different, ultimately. I have to keep my home above 55 F to keep the pipes from freezing, and I’m comfortable at around 60-65 F inside, so I’d only be saving the equivalent of 5-10 degrees of temperature change by going into the office.

      2. mlem*

        My HVAC vendors have recently been trying to convince me that it’s more energy-efficient to leave the temperature at one setting 24/7 than to let the house cool overnight/when I’m away and then warm it back up in the morning. And I just set the system to maintain 63F for nights/away and 68F when I’m home-and-awake.

        The makers of smart thermostats would disagree. I have my own doubts — like, sure, if the answer was “63F all the time”, that’d be one thing, but they seemed to think “68F all the time” was better than varying from one to the other.

    4. TeenieBopper*

      Is there even an energy crisis in the United States/outside of Europe right now?

      But also, I doubt it. Like yeah, I guess it would be more expensive to heat a home for the 9-11 hours you’re not in it. But 1) you can still leave the temp at some cooler temp to save some of that money. 2)If you’re back in the office and can leave the temp cooler than you would otherwise, you’re paying for gas and wear and tear on your vehicle, off setting some of that savings. And 3) It’s also minimum three hours a week of commuting time that your company isn’t paying you for. Even assuming that time is worth only $15/hour,the increased heating bill is covered in like a week based on that saved time alone.

      1. Tau*

        I am kind of wondering about the expected audience for this question, tbh, because I expect it’s going to hit very, very differently for Americans vs Europeans. Last year I would also have waved off the idea. This year I… am not. It’s not even a matter of whether or not I can afford the heating, it’s that we have an energy crisis and everyone needs to do their part to reduce consumption.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. In the UK my colleagues are very worried about the energy crisis, the cost of living crisis and the fact energy bills are skyrocketing. Having done the sums, my energy bills are going up whereas the cost of my commute is not. Doing the maths, being in the office one day more per week will save me money because I can keep the thermostat on very low (about 12 degrees) so the pipe don’t freeze but won’t need to heat the place to a comfortable temperature during the day.

          Judging from the conversations at the tea point, I don’t think I’ll be the only one to make that decision.

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, in Germany I keep hearing conversations about gas prices and how we can save on heating and save gas for the winter and whether we should all be taking cold showers etc. etc. People are concerned! It’s a concerning situation!

            I’ve got to admit that the comments in this thread acting as though the idea of going work in order not to need heating at home is ridiculous and as though extra heating costs must be negligible are sticking in my craw a little. Like, I’m glad you’re not having an energy crisis, but some of us are?!

    5. Dr. Rebecca*

      Eh. There are a LOT of cheap ways of staying warm at home (hot water bottle, electric blanket, slippers, baking something in the oven) that wouldn’t fly at the office.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        A hot water bottle, slippers, a blanket and USB heated gloved have all flown in my office.

        (Yes, these were all for me. I’m sensitive to the cold and *proved* that my desk was in a unique cold spot which was a half degree colder than any other area in the open plan area, but I couldn’t be moved until they finished refurbing the other office area. Not a fun winter)

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We have three of us who work from home, so each of us is sitting in the same ten square feet all day. Rather than trying to heat the whole house all day, we keep the heat low (to the same low we would keep it if nobody was home) and put on sweaters or, worst case, use small heater fans.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (Er, that worded weird. Each of us sits in our own ten square feet all day, not the same ten square feet. Husband’s office is on the second floor, mine is on the main floor, brother’s is in the basement.)

        1. Hlao-roo*

          But you could save even more money if you all sat in the same ten square feet! No need for heater fans with three computers and three bodies in close proximity. /joking

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            When I only had one dog, she sat on me all winter and that helped a lot :) But now that I have two, they get grumpy at each other (well, one gets grumpy and the other wants to play) if they’re that close together, and I can’t work while they’re wrestling in my chair.

            Also, my husband wants it cold, and my brother and I are lizard people, haha. (Him literally — when the temperature allows, he has a snake or lizard on him most of the time.)

    7. Canadian Librarian #72*

      Not for me. I live in an older apartment building and have no control over the heating – it costs what it costs.

    8. Lizzianna*

      For us, the increased AC costs when it was 110+ for over a week here in California still didn’t cancel out what it would have cost my husband to drive to work and pay for parking with current gas prices.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m guessing that for lots of people in the US the cost of gas and the cost of heating/cooling both go up at the same time, but, given the length of commutes, driving will almost always cost more than heating/cooling a +/-10-20 degrees.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        Agreed. I have PG&E and just paid my electric bill for the big heat wave. Doing some mental math for mileage x distance to my studio, as high as that bill was, with recent gas prices it’s about the equivalent of TWO round trips to my studio.

        I reeeealllly want COVID to be extinct so I can start taking the deluxe express bus again–it costs less than 1 gallon of gas each way and is super comfy. But it attracts a lot of tourists and hippies who seem higher than average probability of having COVID.

    9. My+Useless+2+Cents*

      I never went WFH though there is no reason I couldn’t do it. (Other than my manager and the office manager are very much butts-in-seats type people who don’t believe people would actually do their job at home.) I am actively looking for remote work. Winter is going to be a major motivator in my job search because I *HATE* winter driving.

      As for energy concerns, during winter my house stays at the same temp all day anyway, whether I’m there or not. I would think summer would be a different story as I will need to run the air conditioner more often.

    10. itsame*

      If I didn’t have air conditioning it might sway the needle a bit, because roasting in the summer is miserable. But I do have air conditioning, and I also have a pet so I can’t let the house roast or freeze during the day anyway. At that point, the 10~ degree change in heating/cooling I’d feel comfortable making during the day while I’m out of the house would be such a low dollar amount in savings that there’s no way it would effect my desire to not commute.

    11. Another Person*

      People 100% go to my office more in the depths of summer for the air conditioning (it’s pretty common not to have ac here in private residences). Even before they officially opened the offices up in 2020, they made an exception in the very hot summer to be able to work in the office.

    12. A More Brilliant Orange*

      If the cost of heating your home (natural gas) is going up, then the cost of driving your car (gasoline) is going up also. There is no savings in keeping your home cooler and driving your car more.

      A remember, there are more expenses associated with driving your car than just gasoline. Every mile lowers the resale value of your car and brings you a mile closer to having to replace it. More driving = more repairs and more maintenance (like tires & oil changes). Auto insurance rates are higher.

      If anything, higher energy prices would make it even cheaper to stay home than to drive.

      1. Tau*

        Some of us bike, walk or take public transport to work. Especially in Europe, which is the place where heating costs are currently skyrocketing.

      2. UKDancer*

        I take the train and bus and the costs of these are not going up whereas my energy bills are. If you’re in London then you will almost certainly commute by public transport, bike or on foot. So the question is more whether the cost of the commute will outweigh the cost of the energy bills. For a lot of people they probably don’t judging by the media reporting.

          1. UKDancer*

            Rail companies and Transport for London (who run the tubes and buses) aren’t putting fares up until 2023 and the rail fares are being kept below the rate of inflation. So at least this autumn my rail fares are cheaper than my energy bills.

          2. Tau*

            In Germany it’s been going the opposite direction – the government is really pushing to subsidize public transport to try to get people out of private cars. We had three months this summer where you could buy a monthly ticket valid on all local and regional transport in Germany for nine euros, and from what I hear the government is searching for a way to continue with something along these lines long-term (even if a price as low as 9 euros is unlikely to be sustainable).

            And even if you don’t have that government subsidy, public transport prices are typically relatively slow to change and only change at fixed points in time – at least that’s how it works over here.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Wow! 9 euros is about the one-way fare for our local commuter rail from MyCity to San Francisco.

              Transit fare hikes are slow and difficult to enact here too.

    13. Been There*

      I know it’s a factor for several of my coworkers, who have seen their energy bill go from €100 to €400-500 a month. But hybrid schedules are also much more preferred in my office. I don’t know anyone who wants to work from home full-time.

      1. Tau*

        This is actually one of the interesting things about the AAM comments section – people in comments usually end up coming down strongly on the side of “let me work from home! let me be remote! do not make me come into the office!”, but when our company polled us the vast majority wanted a hybrid model with, IIRC, most people saying they’d like to come in at least once a week and only a few people saying they wanted to work from home 100% of the time. I’m not sure if it’s a US/Europe difference, AAM comments not being a representative sample, or some combination, but I always find the desire for WFH and especially full-time remote work to be significantly more prominent here compared to what I see in RL.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes we had a similar result when it was discussed with staff. A small percentage wanted to be remote all of the time, a small percentage wanted to come in all of the time, and the vast majority wanted some form of hybrid work pattern. By and large younger and more junior people wanted to be in more often.

          I wonder if it’s because in London in particular people (especially at the start of their careers) have small flats / shared houses and lack designated home offices so people working from home are working from their kitchen table or on their beds? In the US people seem to have much larger houses with customised home office space. So it might make working from home more appealing to more people.

          1. Overeducated*

            I think people in most of the US are also pretty car-dependent, which is not a very pleasant way to commute. I’m 50 miles from work (near my spouse’s job), and don’t have a home office space, but the public transit options would take 2.5-3 hours to get me there, so…I drive through unpredictable urban traffic. Makes remote work much more attractive.

  7. Tesuji*

    Those responses sound about right. If you want me to give you X hours per week of my free time, you’re going to either need to explain why this a thing you legitimately need (and so threatening to fire me over it is reasonable) or give me a benefit I want more than the X hours of time I’m going to have to spend commuting plus the loss of convenience.

    I was kind of surprised not to see an issue that seems pretty common: Needing people back in the office for X days a week is inherently a failure outside of some pretty niche situations.

    If there is a legitimate need for collaboration and interaction, then what you need is people back in the office on *specific days* so that everyone doing the collaborating and interacting is there at the same time. Otherwise, you’re back to doing everything by email and Zoom anyway, so what’s the point?

    A company that decrees the need for office presence on a percentage basis is inherently admitting that there’s no real need for being in the office other than control.

    If there was a real need, then the in-office time would need to be coordinated enough to accomplish those objectives.

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      Wholeheartedly agree with this.
      We were told at the beginning of this year the expectation was for us to be in the office 2 days a week for collab (some specific days have been set) but up until now this hasn’t been enforced.
      Now they’re stating we have to be in 2x weekly and incentives like puppies, socials and lunches.
      You know what actually would make me happy to go in?
      A rebalance of my workload – WfH has meant we are all doing a lot more (all that travel time and water cooler chat time saved!) so this needs addressing.
      Clearly defined days for my team to be in so we can meet F2F and that the field team know not to book in meetings with us on those days as we prioritise f2f.
      More meeting rooms! Now we are all in the office on the same days meeting rooms get booked out. It doesn’t help that our global office like our location so will often book rooms there. So we end up hybrid by default. So annoying and easily solvable.
      Set me up with a desktop so I don’t have to schlep in on an 1hr plus tube journey with my laptop.

      1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

        Re. rebalance, there is a simple answer to think that I am starting to argue for:

        Commute time is work time.

        In scenarios where it is possible to be 100% productive remotely, requiring in-office work is itself a discretionary direction. It’s no different to being sent across town to pick up the boss’s dry cleaning. It’s on the clock, it’s paid work, and it counts towards my daily hours of required work.

        1. ferrina*

          Commute time is an awful limbo. I’m not working, but I’m not on personal time either. And since it’s been proven that it’s no longer a requirement of working, well, why are we still doing it?

          My commute is about an hour each way, and I’ve got kids. When I’m in office, they barely see me. When I work from home, I coach their soccer team. Big difference in quality of life.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Personally, I like my commute time because it is neither work nor personal time. It’s transitional time. But I my commute is 20 minutes and I don’t have kids, which changes the impact on my life (versus your commute’s impact on your life) quite a bit.

            1. Storm in a teacup*

              I think it’s the short commute that’s key.
              I also don’t have kids but spending 2.5 hours commuting a day no longer makes sense. I can transition sitting in my back garden

              I love seeing people in the office and had missed that side of my work but I think we need to adapt our space to make it more collaborative friendly

          2. ScruffyInternHerder*

            The worst part about the commute is how badly it varies for me, depending on factors over which I have zero control.

            Construction. Detours. Accidents. Freaking Weather.

            My commute lately has been DOUBLE due to a combination of these factors (so we’re approaching 2 hours a day total on the road during high gas prices. I could ride my bicycle more efficiently, except there’s no place to leave it at the office.). Its not like a live where there’s actual public transit, either. Its laughable.

            The thing that has helped, slightly, is the overall relaxing of the dress code. I appreciate NOT having to maintain an entirely extra wardrobe and a fifth (because casual Fridays, but my day to day style didn’t fit the old dress code requirements so I had specific work wear for Fridays only) to meet a dress code. That’s less laundry and I’ve been able to slightly weed out my closet.

          3. A More Brilliant Orange*

            1 hour a day of drive time = 6.25 forty-hour weeks a year.

            It may seem insignificant one day at a time, but it adds up to a large amount of time.

        2. Massive Dynamic*

          I think we’re probably overdue for a “Commute Time is Work Time” revolution. Just think about what it would do to balance out real estate in both low and high-value areas, if companies in high-real estate areas stopped relying on labor commuted in from low-value areas.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      Such a great point – my department just went to “one of your x days per week MUST be Wednesday,” presumably so they can have one day a week where it doesn’t feel like a ghost town. It doesn’t really matter for me, because I’m fully remote, I guess now I’ll just now that on Wednesdays when I have zoom meetings, I’ll be zooming into a conference room instead of zooming in with everyone else on their laptops, either at home or at work.

    3. Orora*

      Agree with this. We have an official staff meeting with mandatory in-person attendance one Thursday out of the month, so most of us have Thursday as one of our in-office days anyway. It’s good to know that at least once a week you’re likely to see a fairly full house and we know to do celebrations, collaboration and large meetings on Thursdays for maximum in-person attendance.

      I don’t mind coming in on Mondays when it’s a ghost town. I get stuff done, and it helps me separate weekend play time from weekday work time.

    4. Some Dude*

      We come in on set days so our whole team is there. I am not coming into the office to get on zoom. we were supposed to come back two days a week, but often on the second day half the team would be out/on calls in their office/not interacting, so we kiboshed that. The benefit to me of in person work is the informal collaboration and networking. I think there is a real value to it – we are social animals, we aren’t meant to just stare at our screens. Maybe some teams do well with slack being the forum for those interactions, but not ours. I think part of the challenge of the world today is we spend too much time online and not enough time in person, so have more in person time is important.

      That said, I live near silicon valley, which has terrible public transit and infrastructure, and is a nightmare to commute to, and is egregiously expensive, so when companies post jobs saying they want folks in the office, they are telling me they want me to pay $4,000 a month in housing and/or spend 90 minutes in super irritating and dangerous traffic so that I can..collaborate?

  8. Rayray*

    If it’s been working for the past 2 and a half years to work from home, let people continue to do so. It feels like many companies can’t come up with an actual reason why they want people back in office full time. It seems a lot of it is managers who want to babysit and also to appease the commercial real estate industry:

    1. Empress Matilda*

      to appease the commercial real estate industry

      Oh, yes. My company moved to a brand new, purpose built office at the end of 2021 – this move had been in the works for at least 10 years, and construction was already well underway in March 2020. The C-suite isn’t saying anything out loud of course, but I’m sure this is a big part of the push to bring people back – we can’t have our fancy new office sitting empty!

      (I get it, because it really is a nice office. But unfortunately that’s not a good enough reason to require people to come back…)

      1. Anonym*

        Sunk cost fallacy strikes again. Losing an increasing number of staff over time is an objective and significant cost; no amount of butts warming seats will get those real estate contract and renovation dollars back.

      2. ferrina*

        My company is actually trying to do the right thing, and they are walking a really fine line with the office footprint. They don’t want to mandate people to work somewhere when the location isn’t having an impact, but they don’t want to pay more for rent than they have to. They have no idea how to calculate how much office space they’ll need for the next few years, especially as no one knows how in-person interactions will change.

  9. Empress Matilda*

    The cornhole tournament is kind of an impressive level of missing the point, isn’t it. Come back to the office! We have games now! I can’t imagine why it’s not working as an incentive…

    I’m one of the few people who really misses the office. I like having quick chats with random coworkers that I would never see if I were full time WFH, and I prefer to work with a level of ambient noise of people talking and moving around in my area. The problem is, this kind of environment pretty much died in March 2020 – I’m missing an office that just doesn’t exist any more.

    We’re supposed to go in three days a week, although I’m not sure how strictly that’s being enforced. I was there on Friday, and nearly by myself – on a floor that holds about 200 people, there couldn’t have been more than a dozen actually there. So what’s the point in coming in? Why have a shower and put on real clothes and commute for an hour in each direction, only to work in a silent office by myself? If the point is to collaborate, and there’s no one there to collaborate with – then there’s no point.

    I think orgs are really going to have to get on board with this idea, that the workplaces we remember are not coming back. And all the cornhole tournaments and casual Fridays and hybrid policies aren’t going to bring them back. The entire concept of “office work” needs a rethink, from the ground up.

    1. Unaccountably*

      “The problem is, this kind of environment pretty much died in March 2020 – I’m missing an office that just doesn’t exist any more.”

      Same. I miss that environment too! But I can’t recreate it by schlepping in three days a week to sit in the same suite as an increasingly resentful – and shrinking – batch of co-workers. It’s like trying to recreate the 50s by making your entire company stand around in a gym wearing poodle skirts.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Yes yes yes. I’m a longtime remote worker so I obviously have a bias, while also fully acknowledging that there ARE consequences and tradeoffs with remote work. (Just as there are to onsite work.) There are definitely things/people remote fails for, and some kinds of innovation / business / professional development will be compromised — but that’s not inherently the fault of remote work or solved by going back onsite. It’s because we’re stuck in the old models of what work looks like and we’re just trying to apply those things to a fundamentally different world. We are at a very weird time where neither side is fully functional for a lot of folks. We must rethink work then build the tools, cultures, and processes needed for new ways of working.

    3. Anonymous for this*

      I come in on a number of my allowed WFH days because I have a partner with intermittent but severe anxiety who works at home most of the week.

      If I stay home, I have to take care of them, thus I get less done during work hours and have to make it up somewhere (evenings, weekends, very early morning), plus my stress levels jack up.

      It makes me sad, because I love working at home. But I need to go to the office most days.

  10. KG*

    As a courtesy, my boss has allowed me to work from home 2 days a week since June 2020. This summer, I couldn’t stand the commute anymore and quit for a closer job. I hated the new job and gave notice planning to take some time off and then freelance for small companies locally. A week before I was scheduled to finish at the new job, my old boss offered WFH 4 days a week and we keep my replacement to do part of the job; I countered with 2x per month in the office or when it is really needed (we have 2 busier times of the year but the new person can handle the bulk of the in-office work).
    It’s been working well for a few weeks now. It didn’t occur to me to ask for this before looking for another job. People smarter than me are obviously pushing back sooner.

  11. Mona Lisa Vito*

    My company is absolutely great with all of us being remote (which I am grateful for!!), and I’ve been to the office a handful of times in the last year – mainly because I had plans downtown after work so it just made it easier to get there. I will say, working in HR, it’s SO much easier to do my job from home than in an open office. Instead of having to battle for a conference room for private conversations, I can take calls any time from home. I think it’s made me much more efficient.

    1. Freebird*

      I love this part of working from home. I’m in sales and a manager, so I need to have discreet convos on a regular basis. It’s so much easier to do this at home!

  12. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh wow, the person whose office has free onsite child care? Amazing. I want that. If I could get that, I could even spend the money on an app ride to and from work every day with my son in tow, and still be paying less than I would pay for day care. Granted, moving the car seat around all the time would be a pain, but still. My employer has child care on site, but it’s even more expensive than most of the child care in my highest-cost-of-child-care state. And people are still on wait lists for a year or more to get in.

    1. Anonym*

      That is the ONLY thing I’ve heard in many, many explorations of this subject that would get me to consider going back voluntarily. Literally nothing else. And I would still rather work from home and have childcare close to home, but the childcare market is a horror.

      1. Bubbletea*

        I live hundreds of miles away from the office now but if free childcare had been an option I might have been able to afford to stay there (needed a bigger house). Now I’m looking at quitting work entirely because I just can’t afford the childcare costs.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      The onsite child care probably would have gotten me back when I had kids of the age to need it. Now that the kids are grown, they might could get me with free doggie daycare, but I doubt it.

    3. Green Goose*

      I loved that suggestion too, and that would definitely get me going to the office. We’re about to have our second kid and daycare costs will be eating 2/3 of my take home pay.

    4. Mim*

      My kid is too old for that now, but on-site childcare would have been such a help when she was younger. Even if it were similar in cost to what we were paying elsewhere, saving the extra time it takes to do drop off and pick up at a different location would have meant so much to me. I remember the days when getting an extra half hour in the day could turn everything around, and turn things from an impossible grind to giving me room to actually breathe and enjoy things instead of rushing all the time.

  13. snarkfox*

    The more I think about it, the more I realize how much the “9 to 5 butts in seats” kind of job makes just existing in the world so difficult. You have to take off work to go to the doctor… to get your oil changed… to get your taxes done… to go to any kind of government office…. You can only go grocery shopping when other 9 to 5ers are also off work, meaning it can take literally twice as long due to crowds.

    I now worked out a hybrid schedule with my boss because I have the kind of job that can’t all be done from home… but it’s great because I leave the office at 2:00, and I can run by the grocery store or whatever, and then just spend extra time on my work that night at home. I worked out this schedule because I wanted to get a puppy, and I wouldn’t be able to if I were working full 8-hour days in the office….

    1. NeedRain47*

      As for grocery shopping, if you are not a religious person who worships on Sunday morning, I highly recommend “Heathen shopping hours” before 11AM on Sundays.

      1. Gracely*

        And if you live in a big college town, game day *during* the game is a glorious time to grocery shop.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Juuuuust make sure that there’s no change in traffic patterns to the highway to accommodate game day traffic, if you need to use that particular area to get to your grocery store.

          I learned this the hard way when I was in Uni. Didn’t realize that traffic was one-way away from the stadium after the game (its not a one-way normally). 15 mile detour because I opted to grab groceries and do responsible adult things during midterms instead of going to the game. Ooops.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Or in the fall & winter during football games on Sunday. (Works best where football is practically a religion unto itself.)

      3. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        My teen son works at a grocery store and they pay and extra $1 an hour on Sundays to get more people to work on the “Lord’s Day”. We aren’t religious so he always works Sunday mornings until about 1pm. It gets a bit busy at the end but it’s a super easy shift for him for more pay.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I remember when grocery stores in my area started talking about being open on December 25th. People were up in arms. “How dare they force people to work on Christmas Day!”
          I was like, “…You know that there are people who don’t celebrate Christmas, right?” If I had a choice of sitting at home doing nothing and earning no money because everything’s closed on a holiday I don’t observe, or making triple overtime at work on a slack day, I know which one I’d pick.

      4. bookworm*

        The best shopping time in my community, which has a large Orthodox Jewish population, is Friday night after sundown. Between people observing the Sabbath and people who somehow have the energy to go out and do stuff on Fridays, it’s a ghost town. The only thing you have to be careful about is getting there too early and getting caught in the last-minute pre-sundown shopping emergency trips…

        1. J*

          I have been known to commute to a shopping center in the Jewish part of town just to have quiet Friday evening shopping. It’s also the best time to hit Trader Joe’s in my area and before the weekend crowd wipes out the inventory.

      5. Random Biter*

        Absolutely this! In fact, just this past Sunday I decided as long as I was up at 6 (my local Meijer opens then) I would go. Zero traffic and maybe a dozen cars in the lot some of which were probably employees. Win! The only down side was that I couldn’t purchase the bottle of dry sherry I needed for a mushroom soup recipe.

        1. Foley*

          LOL. I’m an 8 am shopper. Blissful. The best part about WFH (which I did pre pandemic) is I can do all the errands and phone calls when gov’t/doctor’s offices are open.

          But before I moved to CA, in an in-between time in graduate school, I learned about blue laws. I was surprised I couldn’t buy alcohol because it was Sunday morning….

    2. Verthandi*

      This is one of many reasons I’m not so keen on getting back to a day shift. I love my crowd-free shopping, ability to schedule vet and doctors visits without taking time off, and waking up gently with the sun.

    3. River Otter*

      I have worked a 9-80 schedule for the past few years. For people not familiar, this schedule means working 80 hours in 9 working days and taking every other Friday off. I can’t even remember how I did things when I worked a regular 5-40 schedule. I schedule everything non-work for my off-Fridays, and I would really have to cut into my PTO to get things done if I were to go back to a 8-5, 5-40. Non-standard working hours are the best.

    4. Random Biter*

      This is what I’m truly envious about the WFH folks. Even my vet and mechanic have evening and Saturday hours, but just try getting that at ANY of my various doctors and they look at you like you have two heads. I’ve actually gone down to a 4 day work week just so I have an open day I can book appointments for.

    5. ferrina*

      Yes! This is a huge perk for me. My role has a flexible schedule (and a flexible boss), so if I disappear for an hour during the workday, it’s fine as long as I make up the time (not a problem- sometimes I get into a groove and am happy to work on non-essential stuff into the evening).

      It’s great for any kind of shopping, appointments, or just when my brain decides it needs to reboot. I can run laundry midday or take housework breaks, so my leisure time is more leisurely. Love it!

    6. No Longer Looking*

      Of course that is assuming that the doctor, oil man, and tax professional don’t find ways to work from home also. :)

      1. Avery*

        Doctor and car mechanic would be hard to make work on a permanent WFH basis, just due to the basic requirements of the position! Tax professional, though… that might actually work. I was an office assistant to a tax professional once, and WFH just would’ve meant having to have access to the files and mailings there instead of at the office, which certainly isn’t impossible.

      2. whingedrinking*

        To me one of the only good things to come out of the pandemic is that I can finally, FINALLY, just make a phone appointment when I need a refill on my prescription. It is ludicrous that for fifteen years before that, I had to travel forty minutes by bus and wait in an uncomfortable plastic chair for half an hour so I could spend two minutes telling my doctor that I still need the exact same medication I’ve needed for over half my life.

      3. TaxLady*

        yup, I’m a tax pro that is totally online service only and WFH. But I do work weekends and evenings during tax season (really I work everyday during tax season!)

    7. Fishsticks*

      It’s all designed around the expectation of having a happy housewife at home to do all the errands and household management while you’re in the office. Except we’ve rebuilt work expectations to remove, for most, the ability to have said happy housespouse, but haven’t removed the expectations for a household to be run that way. So we’re all stressed and chasing our tails trying to balance everything when it frankly can’t be done without risking enormous burnout.

      1. Unaccountably*

        This is a great point. It’s not even that offices are still trying to enforce norms from before the pandemic – they’re still trying to enforce norms from the ’50s and ’60s.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Right! The pandemic kind of overwhelmed this, but even before 2020 we were seeing a ton of discussion about the upcoming work crisis, and rising burnout, parents who couldn’t afford daycare, etc and so forth.

          All of the hand-wringing was always dancing circles around the basic fact that, in the USA at least, we are part of a society that is set up around the expectation is one income households that has made it nearly impossible to actually HAVE a one-income household.

          My husband and I have been lowkey discussing buying a house with a friend of ours and moving in as a trio plus my husband and I’s kids, just so we still have two incomes and one of us can stay home and be supported by the other two and be able to handle all the logistical and cleaning aspects of life.

    8. Esmeralda*

      I still have to take leave for many of those things, if they’re more than say 30 minutes.

      But it’s a hell of a lot easier to schedule them. Most of my medical appts are on my work from home days. I don’t have to factor in (and take time off for) driving back to work, driving around looking for parking…

  14. NeedRain47*

    The denial still going on among employers…. stop trying to make people come into the office for no real reason! If their work has suffered, fine. If there are tasks they can’t do from home, fine! But people aren’t so stupid that employers can tell them it’s necessary when it clearly isn’t. I realize there are other reasons employers do this but this is what it comes down to.

    1. Snark*

      One major reason given for our lack of flexibility is that some elements of our organization work on an on-call basis, and it wouldn’t be fair to tell them they can’t telecommute, so nobody can.

      They did not appreciate my inquiry as to whether they’re concerned that I will find it unfair if I don’t get to spend half the day watching TV in a recliner, as the fire department and plumbing folks do.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        What’s fair is people being constrained only by the actual constraints of their jobs — and not the real nor imagined constraints of other people’s jobs.

      2. turquoisecow*

        I work for a company that supports retail businesses. Since the retail workers can’t work from home, the argument until very recently has been that we can’t either. But we do have other perks that retail workers don’t, so it doesn’t make sense.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Right. Even on the days we are required to be in the office “because students,” the students STILL make virtual appointments with us. What a surprise! Students have jobs, they have to commute, they have health concerns, they have family obligations, they have classes…virtual appointments have increased accessibility.

      And interestingly, they are less likely to miss their appointment when it’s virtual, and they’re good about emailing me when they can’t make it.

    3. Pisces*

      The issue I saw at ExJob was that many people wouldn’t differentiate between when they could do something at home, but should do it in the office.

      That lack of proper judgment is probably a reason some employers find it easier to declare mandatory in-office days, or not to allow remote work at all. Then everyone’s being treated the same, instead of explaining to Mike that he can’t WFH like Molly because she’s doing it responsibly and he’s not.

  15. Everything Bagel*

    How timely! I just resigned from my job today after having accepted a fully remote position at another company.

    Our company made us all come back in Feb 2022 (to a new open office plan, for added discomfort!), but left the number of hybrid days in the office up to each department. My department requires 3 days in the office, even though I only collaborate with one other person in my department, my boss. The rest of my work communication is with people at other sites via phone and email. The collaboration with my boss over the two years we spent fully working from home had no issues once we adjusted our processes. He even complained when we were forced to go back to the office that it was so unnecessary.

    Unless a company can give concrete, specific examples of times when collaboration in person is necessary, then it’s just a bunch of horseshit to tell people we just need to be in the office to collaborate better. As Alison always says, people with options will find another job. I’m not the first to leave my company since we were told we would be going back to the office, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

  16. Snark*

    There’s always my current leadership’s option, which is to require that everyone be in office, whether they need to or not, since late 2020, and then evince deep shock, confusion, and resentment at their inexplicable high rate of turnover.

    1. Gracely*

      Sounds like my leadership, except to them, the high rate of turnover is a feature, not a bug (we’re not overextended and overworked, we’re “rightsizing”).

  17. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    “Employers with legitimate reasons to want people back haven’t figured out how to communicate those reasons in a convincing way.”

    Right. Saying things like “it fosters teamwork,” or “it’s about fairness because some people have to come in,” don’t really cut it. It feels like a fabrication. Even is some teams DO have a legitimate reason to come in or DO work better in person, it still may not mean they have to be in the office every day.

    Employers would do better to redefine what the office is for. To me, the office is for meeting, brainstorming, planning, training, onboarding, gathering, client interaction, and (hopefully) celebrating wins. The office (assuming it’s not public facing) is no longer for day-to-day work, unless you specifically need to be at the office to use special equipment or to access something only accessible at the office. Leaders would have more success to focus on those things for in-person days rather than demanding that workers spend 1x, 3x days in office “just because” without stating an actual purpose.

    I recently went into my office for the first time in months to meet with some people. It was fine and I actually liked it, but I also got no actual “work” done while I was there. Only meetings. I say this because for a lot of us, the many meetings we attend are not our actual deep focus “work” process of producing something tangible.

    1. Snark*

      There’s a weird resistance to actually managing people at work. Like, there are whole weeks I could WFH. There are whole weeks I am onsite, doing field or office work. And everything in between. I can manage my time. My manager can manage me. And yet somehow, people I see four times a week – if that – think we need a blanket policy against all of it.

    2. Rob aka Mediancat*

      “it’s about fairness because some people have to come in,” at best translates to “Department A is complaining that they have to be in the office while other folks are at home and comfortable and since they can’t be at home and comfortable no one can.”

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I find a lot of value in occasional meetings that don’t produce deep focus “work”. But definitely occasionally – it shouldn’t warrant a requirement to be in the office multiple days a week for no other reason.

      I desperately want a not-real-work meeting in my life. I come into the office to sit alone at my computer.

  18. Sara without an H*

    What stuck me about the article is the inability of so many companies to articulate a convincing business reason for bringing people back to the office. And if “collaboration” is the reason, they need to be specific about what that means in their particular line of work.

    While earlier commenters have mentioned the perceived need of managers to exercise “control” (i.e. surveillance) over employees, I suspect that much of the drive to return derives from executives who made their careers through personal relationships and can’t imagine any other way to make a career. If you schmoozed your way to the corner office, you will set a high value on schmoozing.

    1. CLC*

      Totally agree!!! I think back to early days of the pandemic and people with the privilege of having beautiful clothes talking about missing getting dressed up. Lol as a short, fat woman with limited resources that is the LAST thing I miss. If you have built your career around being seen and heard, I can see how WFH seems like a problem for you. The frumpy introverts finally got a win!

      1. Loulou*

        great point. only models, singers, and go-go dancers could possibly miss interacting with coworkers in person!

        1. Fishsticks*

          This strikes me as incredibly similar to the “You say you like pancakes? THAT MEANS YOU HATE WAFFLES” meme. That isn’t what the commenter said, and either you know it and you’re being disingenuous, or you don’t know it and were needlessly hostile instead.

          1. Loulou*

            the commenter took someone’s pretty reasonable point about people who built their career on personal relationships being biased toward in person work, and replied with an absurd non sequitur about people wearing beautiful clothes… tbh, if you don’t know any “frumpy introverts” who rely on building personal relationships at work, maybe you SHOULD go back into the office once in awhile and look around!

            1. Unaccountably*

              The commenter wasn’t talking about building relationships, obviously. You can build relationships even if you’re not beautifully dressed. The commenter was talking about people who feel that working requires an audience.

              What you’re talking about, I have no idea.

    2. Anonym*

      Ding ding ding! That and a misapprehension of the limits of their own expertise (“I’m an executive so therefore I’m also highly qualified to assess a way of working that I’m basically unfamiliar with”).

      There’s also a legitimate – beyond schmoozing – difference with how senior executives produce value. Much of their work is comprised of conversations, relationships, and decision making. They don’t *produce* in the same sense that most of us do. They don’t write communications, do analysis, work with spreadsheets, etc. They’re not doing execution. The work they do actually IS fairly interactive, so it’s not surprising that they do it better in person. What IS surprising is that they don’t realize they’re the exception within the workforces of their organizations.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        This! It’s not that different from when a member of upper management sat with a coworker for about 30 minutes, saw one piece of our complex process, & decided that some newly purchased software would solve problems we had with our old software. It did not. We kept the old software & had to also start using the new software, this adding an additional layer of complexity to our processes & more work to our understaffed department.

        If they had purchased the type of software we asked for to begin with, that would have been nice. I ended up quitting. Then they hired someone who couldn’t do the job at all. But they sure saved money by not getting that software we needed!

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

      I think as technology has made it easier to track results that don’t rely on a manager’s supervision (I don’t mean unnecessary surveillance…just easier to see if the projects/work is getting completed because it’s shared on the cloud or there’s a ticket system in place and no need to manually update a white board or spreadsheet), those managers that made their careers through nothing more than personal (or more like personnel) relationships, are finding that companies aren’t going to need so many people-managers anymore.

  19. CLC*

    In the year leading up to the pandemic my employer had this big campaign encouraging people to work from home more frequently (they were trying to save on office space). As a result they could never really justify trying too hard to get people back in. I would go in if it were like the old-old days and I had my own workspace with screens and ergonomic furniture and things set up the way I like, and if there were places to get food and coffee. I don’t see the point of going in when it is so inconvenient and uncomfortable and you spend half the day adjusting your chair and squinting at your laptop. Especially since one of the reasons I had to *buy a new house* in 2020 was to have office space and I’ve spent a lot of my own money setting that up.

  20. Melting HR Guru*

    I am one of the weird ones who like to be in the office. But it should be set up as a hybrid office IE if you want to come in come on in if not then we will see when you have to be here. (about once a month meeting) I like being in the office but there are days when my life gets in the way I really wish employers could figure out we are adults and let us work where it works best for us. But well that probably isn’t realistic.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I discovered during 2020 that I missed being in an office part of the time. I don’t have a great workspace at home, whereas right now I’m sitting at a large desk with double monitors and a full-size keyboard. Some things really are easier in person. And I like having people around for some light socialization and a change of scenery. My commute is very short, so I’m not wasting a lot of time or gas.

      That said, I also like being able to just put on leggings, play music at whatever volume I like and take a walk during lunch. So truly a hybrid schedule is my ideal, and I’m grateful that my manager is very flexible and understanding about all of it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I also feel like it’s worth noting that at my current job (which I started in Jan 2021) we have teams and team members across several states, so there is nearly always a Zoom or Teams meeting link.

    2. EchoGirl*

      I agree with this. I’ve been WFH-only even before the pandemic (I had a remote-only job and then went to freelancing) and I honestly think having an office to go to at least a few days a week would be to my benefit. But that doesn’t mean I want other people to be forced in if WFH works for them . The idea should be to accommodate both types of people, not push one OR the other as the ultimate standard.

  21. KittenLittle*

    Wow! We only did remote for about six weeks at the beginning of the pandemic and half of our colleagues were furloughed. Folks were required to help with tasks like landscaping, painting, and custodial duties (which weren’t on their job descriptions) when they returned so they could still get paychecks. I can’t imagine refusing to come in and still have a job. That’s just amazing, but I suppose it depends on the organization.

      1. Dinwar*

        Depends on the field. I’ve heard similar stories in construction companies–the boss was smart enough to save up money for lean periods (when they weren’t winning work), but the workers had to do something to justify the paycheck. Often these were used as opportunities for training. It’s better to learn to operate an excavator or a dozer on your own property, after all. And since this is largely hands-on work, the idea of refusing to show up and keeping your job is nonsense.

  22. Purple Jello*

    I loved eliminating the commute, prepping our supper during my lunch break, and scheduling contractors appointments around my work meetings. I disliked working in a cube with lots of noise around, in an old building that smelled funny.

    I got much more work processed when working remotely, but that’s because as a senior, experienced employee I spend a lot of time when in the office on “casual” conversations, which were usually informal mentoring and training of less experienced employees. There were hardly any of these types of conversations when we weren’t face to face.

    I’ve never heard my employer give this as a reason for return to in-office work, but it was the only one that would make sense for my position.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I have seen this stated as a reason to demand people come in. It actually is one of the better ones. It still isn’t great. It says that part of everyone’s job is to train new people, but this is not part of their job descriptions, they aren’t evaluated on it, and they are not compensated for it. Even stipulating to the collective benefit, this is a hard sell to the individual (and a bit rich, coming in late-stage capitalism). I think that the better run organizations will put serious thought into how to bring new people up to speed in a remote environment, and will figure it out eventually.

      1. mlem*

        For more senior (non-management) roles, mentoring actually can be in the job description; it is in mine, as well as in the level below mine. (In my company’s case, though, we were already spread across multiple campuses, and the company already allowed up to two WFH days a week, so there were already challenges to the assumption that people with the right skill sets would magically happen to be present when a more junior team member had a challenge.)

      2. TechWorker*

        There’s a lot of assumptions here. Where I work the job descriptions absolutely do include mentoring/advising more junior people on their work and yes, it is evaluated, and yes, it plays into promotions and pay rises. And yes it is a key reason my company has gone for 3 days a week in office, 2 days do what you want. I worked from home today and a reasonable proportion of my team were in the office by choice… AAM commenters seem very one sided on this, my experience does not match up :)
        (But yes we do have genuine work reasons to talk to each other, a lot, agree it would be different if work was completely siloed or you’re only working with people at different sites).

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Fair point, for those whose job descriptions really do include this. Less so for the rest of us.

      3. Purple Jello*

        But it WAS a stated part of my job requirements. Unfortunately people did not ask me questions or call me to just discuss stuff when we were remote.

    2. Ranon*

      The informal mentoring and training is the reason my office has given for encouraging in person work. And it’s the ask they’ve gotten from employees for in person work. So currently the only folks who are supposed to be in the office more often are the higher level folks (I think the ask is 1-2 days a week, minimum). Lower level folks still have full flexibility. And we’ve got plenty of fully remote people and people working out of other offices anyways so I don’t really see a full butts in seats approach any time soon (certainly not after our CEO talked about giving up the lease on one of our floors)

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        We have a sort of weird opposite but same to that… our lower level people have to be in office because our jobs are physical (lab/manufacturing). Our managers arguably can work from home physically because they don’t have to touch the equipment, but we find we need that FaceTime of a manager present in the office at least a couple days a week (we’d prefer more but settle for two to three). Their presence helps with mentoring, development, interpersonal issues (the kind that are hard to manage if you’re not around to potentially witness them), and general learning the team and trust building. We aren’t likely to reach out as much to them when they’re off site because you don’t know what they’re doing and can’t easily get a sense of if they can be interrupted right now (by us teams status isn’t reliable info). Since our jobs have us away from our desks a lot, it’s easier if all of your interactions with senior people aren’t required to be on the computer. Would we survive if senior people decided to only wfh? Probably… is it better when they come on site a couple days a week? Most definitely…

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, same here, other side though. I theory I can work 100% remotely (and have had to do it during the pandemic), but not being in the lab in person, not actually seeing the experiments, not being able to quickly go over and have a look… was bad.

          The good thing is that we never had the “ghost town” problem either as there’ss always a majority of people actually on site that you can interact with in person. I can see that commuting just to do Teams calls in an empty building would suck.

          (Also, we have a great canteen and nice coworkers to go there with. Big plus, but probably not as relevant.)

  23. Canadian Librarian #72*

    Sponsoring my monthly metropass would be helpful, and paying me for commuting time would be good too. I’d even accept half my regular hourly rate for the commute time.

    1. FineWithHybrid*

      This is what my work is currently trying. It’s not fully covered, but they applied for the Go Transit Corporate pass which gives us unlimited rides for 90 days. It costs $441 so not everyone bought one, but for me it was worth it as just going in twice a week i save over $100. We’re pretty sure the higher ups are going to force us to come in for 3 days soon so i’ll save even more.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      My employer sponsors my public transit pass, but that is only small comfort when it takes 2.5-3 hours round trip for me to go into and home from work by public transit. That commute wasn’t horrific before I had kids, but now that I do, it’s simply not feasible very often.

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

    Just sharing a related experience…very recently my department had an off-site team retreat/team building day. It was fine — I don’t have any complaints on the content or location.

    Afterward the Big Grand Boss (VP) did a poll on how often we want to have in-person retreats — annual, semi-annual, or quarterly. Our group is about 50% permanent WFH, 40% hybrid, and 10% in-office.

    We were 70-30 on voting for annual or semi-annual. Only one person, a director, voted quarterly. We are now doing quarterly in-person department retreats.

  25. Richard Hershberger*

    I had an interesting conversation about this last summer at the national convention of my baseball research group. It brings out an interesting cross section.

    I was talking with a guy who is quite senior in a banking-adjacent industry. I have known him casually for years and know he is not stupid or crazy (neither being a given in this group). He was complaining about people working from home. Or, in the specific example he gave, the guy who turned out to be working from a vacation house. I asked him what specific problems this created. His example was when a document needs to be notarized. In the office this is a trivial matter, as there are notaries working there. From the deck of the vacation house, this is more complicated. This seems to me a fair point, though pretty narrow to the industry. The solution is to set up some sort of arrangement where the guy with the document can go to a local bank and have it notarized there. It is not clear to me how common this is. If just an occasional thing, this is pretty easy. If vacation house guy needs to have this done frequently, I can see its being an issue.

    But it also is specific to the one industry. Also in the conversation was a writer/editor, who also is leftier than me, which is not all that common even in lefty circles. Her response was that she hasn’t worked in an office for over a decade. The industry has long since moved nearly entirely remote.

    My take is that we can divide various businesses into three groups: (1) Those which can only be done in person; (2) Those with substantial elements that can be done remotely, but they need to figure out how to do it well; and (3) Those with no reason to sit in an office. Group (3) has been moving remote for years now, with Covid pushing the process along. Group (1) might have shut down briefly in the beginning of the pandemic, but went back to business as usual, as there really was no other option. Group (2) is the interesting one, and which I take my interlocutor’s banking-adjacent industry to be part of. This is were the real questions lie, and I am fascinated to see how it plays out. The greatest silliness is in Group (3), when the bosses think they are in some other group.

    I think once the dust settles, we will find that Group (2) employers will have to pay a premium for in-person workers, simply as a matter of recruitment. Will they be willing to do this? Perhaps. Think of all those industries back in the day that paid Black and/or female workers less. They still hired White men, paying them more, because reasons.

    1. Mostly Managing*

      I agree.
      Your “group 2” is the grey area. Things that can only be done in person are being done in person. Things that are in group 3 are more and more being done fully remotely – at least in most cases.
      My husband’s office is an interesting one. They are officially back in the office 2 days a week, but allowed more/less than that with their manager’s approval. A lot of people have negotiated almost full time from home (in office for important meetings, but otherwise remote). A very few people actually asked to be full time in the office, because WFH wasn’t a good fit for them (space, distractions, etc).

      I would argue that group 2 are the ones best suited to a hybrid arrangement of some sort. Whether that’s “Tuesdays we are in person” or “come in when you need to” or some other system that works for that team.

      That said, I saw an article the other day (probably on BBC) that said workers are finding hybrid more stressful that all in person or all at home. Mostly because they have to remember to bring things from one location to the other rather than working in the same place every day, and because there’s less routine – some days are an early start + commute and other days are not rushed at all.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “Tuesdays we are in person” can make sense on the team level, but it seems that a lot of companies are taking a “everyone in the entire company comes in on Tuesdays,” which means that the office space is either empty or overflowing. I suspect that this is a transitional phase, and as commercial leases run their course these will evolve into some variant of “Team A comes in on Monday, Team B on Tuesday, etc…”

        That being said, there still is a cost to pay. Fully remote, and a worker can live anywhere, or at least anywhere subject to HR issues with state lines. With hybrid you need to take the commute into consideration. You might be willing to tolerate a gruesome commute one day a week, but this still sets an outer limit. You will still need to pay a premium, albeit a smaller one.

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          This is a really interesting analysis and I think you’re spot on with the hybrid schedule. Our biggest issue currently is lack of meeting space and also a lack of zoom rooms for those of us needing to take calls on days we are in person as the whole office is expected in on the same day each week.

        2. Mostly Managing*

          Yes! Keeping the days rotating by teams makes sense in terms of conference rooms, and also in terms of being able to distance a bit and not share every germ that comes by.

      2. Queen Ruby*

        I get this. I’m always paranoid I’ll forget something I need and have to go to the office to get, which means I should just stay there the whole day. I’m trying to frame my 2 WFH days/week as the days I can sleep in, because I don’t have to wash my hair and put on nice clothes and drive 25 mins each way. I don’t mind going into the office when I think of it as something I need to do (I don’t really, I could be fully remote) 3 days a week, and then 2 days a week are easier days.

      3. Autumnheart*

        I resolved the hybrid situation by basically having a duplicate item at home, so I wouldn’t need to bring very much in with me at work. I bought a second adapter and cables for my work laptop, a second lumbar cushion, and stuff like that. Even pre-pandemic, we still had occasional need to work from home (like if we had an appointment that day, or were feeling mildly ill, or whatever) so I was habitually taking things in every day anyway.

        Going fully remote during the pandemic, and then coming back for a hybrid environment with three ITO (in the office) days, made it clear to me how damned tiring it is to go to an office every day! How on earth did I manage it 5 days a week? Even 3 days a week is just exhausting. I also had to adjust to getting up at 6am three times a week, but 8am the other two times. It’s disruptive.

        I was just recently informed, though, that our team is going from hybrid to remote permanently. :-O Could’ve knocked me over with a feather! I’m delighted though.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Interesting. When the Plague hit the small women’s college where I was library director, we figured out after a couple of months that we were Group 2. The public facing jobs (reference, instruction, unjamming printers) still required somebody to be onsite. The back-of-the-house jobs (interlibrary loan, book orders, vendor relations) could be done anywhere with a solid internet connection.

      After Senior Leadership ordered everybody back to campus, I successfully argued that my interlibrary loan librarian (who is canny about her age, but has to be on the high side of 70) was high enough risk that she should continue to work off campus, while the rest of us rotated. There was some dithering, but mostly because nobody had done it before.

    3. Sara without an H*

      For sometime we’ve been modeling workplaces on what worked in the industrial/pre-internet world. All files were paper (and required space for file cabinets and employees to file that paper), and telephones and snail mail were the only means of communication at a distance. I personally know of a couple of organizations that used to own dedicated buildings to house their operations, but have sold them, since they no longer had to make room for paper files, typing pools, etc.

      Over time, Group 3 is going to get larger and larger, with unpredictable consequences for society at large. It will be interesting to watch the process, but probably not fun for a lot of the people affected.

    4. itsame*

      This is a great analysis. I think a lot of people conflate groups 2 and 3, especially as group 2 exists along a spectrum of how much work can be done remotely, which leads to people talking past each other when it comes to how effective remote work can be.

    5. Adrian*

      I know a Vacation House Owner who you’d have to have a mobile notary public go to their home. No way this person will go to the bank.

  26. River Home*

    LOL, what would it take to get me back in the office? Send all the noisy people, interrupting people, and people who come to work sick and later turn out to have COVID home. I’ve got a list of names…

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Nod. WFH is beautiful when you’re not sick enough to not work but you need a little bit more flexibility. With everything going how it is we all need more flexibility for illness.

      1. River Home*

        WFH is especially beautiful for people with %$*&#*$ COVID. With everything going how it is, they need to not come in and infect the rest of us.

  27. BRR*

    I feel envious of the employers who are offering incentives. I work for a regional, mid-size college and we recently went from 50/50 hybrid to four days a week in office. The “incentive” was keeping your job. My department isn’t student facing and there is no other need that requires us to be on campus so much. Leadership is giving dump reasons like it’s so we can “be more present on campus.” One reason was something about office culture but that’s pretty ironic since so many people are looking for new jobs now.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Yes, higher ed is being conspicuously jerkful about this. The chief worry appears to be some version of the Student Campus Experience — that enrollment will fall if there aren’t a whole lot of adults-who-look-like-professors around.

      I just. Think this is silly. I’ve been teaching in higher ed for fifteen years, full-time for eleven of those, and while there is indeed something to be said for co-present community, it’s not instructors that students want around them most of the time.

      “The in-person campus experience” isn’t about the school parts of school. Bluntly: it’s about partying. This is higher ed’s elephant-in-closet, and they’re taking it out on a whole lot of people (not only instructors by any means!) who do not need to work from campus.

      1. Evan Þ*

        No, to me, the in-person campus experience goes a lot beyond partying. I profited a lot from being able to spend time in labs with TA’s present and able to see what I was doing in person if I ran into problems. Also, even though it isn’t technically part of the “school” aspect, it was great being able to run into other students around campus.

        But then, there were a lot of administrative departments I couldn’t have cared less about.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I also benefited a lot from on-site math tutoring when I was in college. I don’t know if I would have been able to get the kind of help I needed as quickly as I did had I tried to do it online. Additionally, I was also in theater classes and music classes that benefited from in person work, so I don’t know if I’d say that the only upside to on campus college learning is the parties (of which I did not attend much – I was, and still am, a massive homebody).

    2. Esmeralda*

      Now is the time to get a different job within higher ed, if you are interested and can move (if there are not other campuses near enough).

      Higher ed is losing lots of employees, many of them to the private sector.

      We just completed searches for three positions (one entry level professional, one 3 + years experience professional, one admin). We just got notice from one current entry level professional, and I’ve been heads-upped that another person is about to give notice. We hired two others during the summer. We hired three last year. We are not getting as many applicants and we are certainly not getting the number of quality applicants as in previous years. And we’ve had an unusual number of candidates who are well into the search process — up to offers being made — who are withdrawing because they have other offers.

      If you’re good, now is the time to move.

      Hell, if you’re competent but nothing special, you can still move.

  28. Ruby*

    I graduated in 2018 and spent two years doing internships / part time fellowships all in person. This was hard on my health as I have a chronic condition. In 2020 I landed my first full time salaried position and have been 100% remote. I am extremely productive and can’t imagine what going into the office would add, as my team is spread out across the country.

  29. idwtpaun*

    Since my manager was perfectly happy with the team productivity during lockdown and our company couldn’t give us (or me personally, when I pushed) a reason beyond “that’s how we want it”, I greatly resent my day in the office. Not only am I being asked to pay in time and money via the commute, but also with my health (I caught covid, for the first time, in the office). If I come to the point where I’m making decisions about my continued employment, this is definitely a mark against the company.

  30. Anon for this*

    I work for an employer that has grown explosively over the last few years. Parking is becoming increasingly difficult to find, and the last time I had to go into the office there was a BOAT parked across the parking lot blocking cars from parking. Not having to deal with commuting over gridlocked roads, or with fighting to find parking, outweighs most incentives to come on site more when days in the office aren’t mandatory.

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          What kind of boat? Did it have a name?
          I am totally imagining this as an episode of the Office. Michael going mad because someone has blocked his parking spot with their boat

  31. Spearmint*

    So I think the answer is obviously employers need it provide a good work-based reason for people to come back. One problem though is I think some of the negative effects of WFH will only become apparent in the long run and so employees won’t find them convincing.

    For example, when remote there are fewer spontaneous conversations which in the long run lead to lower creativity and innovation and collaboration across departments. In my office at least nothing has replaced that since we went remote, everyone feels pretty siloed from one another

    I also wonder about the effects of social isolation on productivity. I’m a big introvert, but being young and living alone AND working from home does make me feel disconnected and depressed, especially as time wears on. This is true even if I have evening plans by the way. Feeling so disconnected has decreased my motivation at work, and it just sucks to go through.

    But even given all that, employers need to have a plan to make those benefits a reality. It’s not enough to half heartedly get people to trickle in occasionally where they sit on Zoom all day in an office.

    1. mlem*

      My workplace tried to sell us on the MAGIC of in-person INNOVATION via random encounters. That’s honestly never been a factor in how I develop code, and I question whether it particularly happened for any of my company’s sub-products, given the nature of what we create. My *team* would sometimes hold in-person meetings to try to solve problems, but that was a purpose-driven meeting.

      Locking eyes with a VP in the restroom mirror as we both wash our hands, or standing in a lunch line behind the developer of a product mine doesn’t talk to, really isn’t going to inspire me to ~innovate~ some mythical new code approach in product. I accept it might somehow happen in other companies, but I also suspect the actual incidence rate is far lower than claimed by C-suites.

      1. Karen, but not that kind of Karen*

        I’ll go one step further to say that I’ve had a better chance at collaborative innovation during the pandemic because I will get pings from people who have a fleeting thought but would have forgotten to mention it to me when we were in the office because our seats are not near each other. I interact with a ton of departments with only a handful of people who are regularly interacting with me onsite. Maybe it’s because not everyone was using IM while we were in the office (sometimes leading to the dreaded unannounced drop-by).

        1. Karen, but not that kind of Karen*

          I mean, I interact on a mild basis with a ton of people, but regular, deeper interaction with a small group.

    2. LittleMarshmallow*

      I agree that it’s hard to work from home if you live alone. Even for introverts. I’m introverted and live alone and very far from family and I utterly despise working from home. I’m fortunate that 90% of my job must be done in person so it’s not an issue for me, but I can’t imagine having to work from home all the time. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive the isolation (I don’t mean that dramatically, the real mental illness that can sneak in from spending all your time by yourself is well… sneaky). We worked from home for 2 weeks… I hated almost every minute of it. The only positive I had was that I liked being able to make an egg sandwich for lunch. I will happily make an egg sandwich for dinner when I’m home in the evening to not have to work from home.

      Overall, and this is my opinion… yes it’s anecdotal and yes it’s based on my own biases and situation… but overall, I think one of the biggest issues is the “one size fits all” mentality that all sides seem to have. It doesn’t need to be that way. I hate wfh and arguably can’t because they won’t let me set up reactors in my garage, but I don’t think that means that everyone should have to go into the office. I also don’t think (from experience) that everyone has an unbiased view of whether their job can be done full remote or not. I’ve seen a lot of “in person only” people covering stuff that’s not their job and they don’t have time to do because someone else convinced their boss that they can do their job from home when really there are aspects they can’t and now others are doing those things. There are usually better ways to deal with that than just dumping tasks on the in office people while the wfh people now have fewer tasks. That’s something managers need to keep an eye on. It’s not to say that the answer is forcing the wfh person to come in, but the answer shouldn’t be to just default to allowing that person to dump their stuff on others. Because I’ve encountered that a handful of times (the percent is fairly high though) I’m always a little suspicious of people that say their job absolutely doesn’t ever require them to be in person. Just because you dumped you office tasks off on some other person doesn’t mean your job doesn’t have and office element to it.

    3. Alternative Person*

      So much this. My colleagues already don’t see each other much because of the nature of the work we do (most of us spend a lot more time at our individual worksites than the office and our office times only overlap so much) but all the recent traction I’ve gotten on projects has been through keeping up connections at the office.

      The social aspect has been weighing on my mind a lot as well. There’s something about those little conversations pre- and post-meeting that’s lost over a Zoom call. I’m pretty self-contained as it is but I still miss the small talk. I wonder about the effect its having on peoples’ social skills in general.

    4. Roscoe da Cat*

      I found that I socialize with people who are WFH around me. I used to take walks as an afternoon break with a friend in the office. We now call each other and discuss work as we walk OR I walk with a friend who is working from home near me.
      I think the problem is that no one can really articulate what those lost opportunities look like which means that no one has really seen them yet.

    5. Wilbur*

      I don’t know if I’ve ever seen or heard of a real world hallway conversation that made the next great innovation in my department. What has seemed to work is dedicated days or workshops for brainstorming, or putting out a call for people outside the normal team to submit a 1 slide idea to fix a certain issue.

    6. penny dreadful analyzer*

      All the comments in this thread using terms like “social aspect” and “socialize” to describe interacting with one’s coworkers are really interesting to me. I’ve only ever worked in one workplace where it was expected for our coworkers to be part of our social life, and it was hands down the most dysfunctional place I’ve ever worked.

      I love WFH full-time and don’t find it any more socially isolating than my last in-office job, where I also was on the computer for 40 hours a week and none of my friends were there. My professional face isn’t any more or less difficult to keep pasted on in person than over Teams. And now that I live alone, I don’t have to navigate taking calls etc. around a bunch of housemates.

  32. Dawn*

    When my department (part of a pilot program) got shut down last month, a sister department immediately hired me on fully remote, and a few people have advanced the theory that it’s mostly because the company knew they’d lose me and my significant experience if they told me to go back to in-person work.

    Employers just don’t have the same power to make demands that they once did if they want to keep their best talent.

  33. Firecat*

    I’ll say the flexible hybrid approach doesn’t work. It basically means that the days you are in the office are wasted and your on zoom/remote all day anyway just with the added annoyance of having to share a bathroom and sit in an uncomfortable chair and commute.

    Our company switched to mandated days in the office per unit and honestly I like it. I’ve learned a lot about the culture I missed over the past two years (first remote hire in 2020) and it’s also allowed me to jump on a project I otherwise wouldn’t have known about because I overheard a Sr leader on a call and knew I could be an asset to the team.

    You can say all day that projects and learning “should” be just as good remotely but in reality overhearing others and then walking over to ask a question is a huge part of the onboarding in a lot of office jobs.

    1. amoeba*

      Depends on how much people are coming in, of course – we have a flexible remote schedule and most of us are still in the office at least 2 or 3 days a week (some 4 or 5). So there’s usually always somebody around. Also, setting up in person meetings (lunch dates are great) in advance helps!

  34. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    I’ve been working from work this whole time because I’m an anesthesiologist and doing surgery on people or giving them drugs in your garage is illegal. But if I had a desk job, only the childcare thing would be compelling. My work does provide on-site child care but it’s discounted, not free.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I’m also in a job where I was still commuting to work during lockdowns. I’m talking New Zealand lockdowns here.

      If I was in a job that could be done remotely, I’m not sure anything would convince me to come in. No children, so childcare wouldn’t help me. Maybe a significant pay increase over wfh positions, but that’s just going to make the wfh companies match the offer to retain talent.

      But I’ll admit to finding this issue to be an amusing one to watch so many companies fail at.

  35. Dawn*

    As ever, the answer is frequently “if you want to incentivize your employees to do something, pay them more.”

    Pretty much any gimmicky “incentive” is insulting when people don’t forget that you could have taken the money you spent on it and put it in their hands instead.

    1. Fishsticks*

      The only incentive that really sings is free childcare, and even that ONLY applies to parents/caregivers to children, so you’ll still have a huge percentage, if not half, of your workforce who isn’t incentivized by it.

      But free childcare really does equate to money back in your hands, potentially a LOT of money. We paid twice our mortgage payment in daycare each month when both my children were in full-time care. $1300 back in my bank account each month? That’s a significant raise for the year.

      But you’d need to have some kind of equally useful incentive for childfree individuals to have it work across the board.

      1. mlem*

        And even those with children might prefer the monetary equivalent in order to stick with a provider they’ve already come to trust. Of course, a lot of employers are struggling (or refusing) to bring their staff to parity with even the WFH market in the first place, much less to offer enough of an in-office incentive bonus to be worth considering.

        1. Dawn*

          Yeah, this. I mean, I don’t have kids and never will, but if I did, I rather think (especially as a trans person in the current political climate) I’d want to be free to choose their daycare provider myself; while I do trust my employer to be good about things, I don’t know that I’d trust someone to care for (and potentially educate) my kids who I hadn’t vetted personally.

          I don’t think we necessarily need to provide an “equivalent incentive” to people without kids, because the concern there is making sure that parents with kids are able to work from the office because their children are being looked after, but I do think that (so long as daycare slots are available at all in the area) a stipend or a reimbursement program would be the better option, or at least should be offered alongside company-provided care.

          1. itsame*

            Part of the issue with childcare isn’t just the money, it’s that it’s increasingly hard to access it at all. Work provided childcare would have the downside of a lack of choice, but a lot of parents the choice currently is “wherever we can get off the waitlist.” The benefit wouldn’t just be the money, in that case, but also not having to deal with applying and waiting to get into a childcare facility and that facility being the same location your job is, so you know you’ll only be making one trip to and from both work and childcare every day.

            I’d personally much prefer our government do much, much more to provide affordable and accessible childcare to all parents, as I’m not too keen on even more of our essential daily needs being reliant on corporations, but until we get our act together and provide greater social services, work provided childcare would be a huge incentive for a lot of people, above and beyond its (substantial) monetary value.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Maybe a menu of subsidies, including child care, elder care, and commuting? Couple that with flexible scheduling, and businesses might get more interest.

  36. BellyButton*

    I recently left a company after 7.5 yrs because they insisted I return to the office. I had worked from home for over 5 years, there was no need for me to be in the office. I spend the majority of my day coaching and giving webinars to people all over the region. If I were in the open concept office I would have to book a conference room anyway. I was also given permission to move out of state over a year ago, and now they want me back in the office? No, there were zero reasons for it other than the new CEO wanted people there. So I left.

    1. Green Goose*

      I’m worried this will be my fate as well. I’m in trainings and meetings all day, and we have an open plan that the new leadership want butts-in-seats. Sigh.

      1. Fishsticks*

        Open plan offices are the actual worst. I honestly think a lot fewer people would resent having to go back to the office if they just knew they would have space to themselves and not be forced to sit in an open office.

  37. Grouchy Grinch*

    Can you please run another article about why remote work is not for everyone?

    In my office, remote work was feasible because I (the manager) came in and did all of the administrative work that someone had to be in the office to do.

    I was willing to do it to protect medically vulnerable staff members from getting a potentially fatal illness. I’m not willing to keep doing it so that fully vaccinated staff don’t have to commute. (These tasks were part of the job when people were hired.)

    I’m also finding that some other areas a lot less responsive. (e.g. Something that could be handled in 5 minutes with a phone call now takes a week with multiple email follow ups.)

    1. Dawn*

      For what it’s worth, your medically-vulnerable staff are still medically-vulnerable. The vaccines are observably not a panacea.

      Also for what it’s worth you’re entitled to “not be willing” to do things but you will have to face the reality that you may lose experienced, high-performing staff over this and may have trouble filling those positions in the current job market. Whatever was “part of the job when they were hired” doesn’t have a whole lot of bearing on the reality of today.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Yep. I just left my job of 10 years, taking my extensive knowledge and experience with me, because my company was completely obstinate about WFH. I may be completely vaxxed but I’m still high-risk, and my old company has no mitigation measures whatsoever. At one point the ENTIRE accounting department came down with Covid (the whole office was a cube farm so transmission was inevitable). My doctor was very blunt with me that no job is worth dying for, and that risk was very real for me given what he saw. So I left.

      2. Doris Thatcher*

        “For what it’s worth, your medically-vulnerable staff are still medically-vulnerable.”


    2. Unaccountably*

      Your last point is a management issue, not a wfh issue. When someone isn’t doing their job in a timely manner, it doesn’t matter whether they’re not doing it at home or not doing it in the office – the procedure for making corrections is the same. Escalate the issue to the other area’s manager. If they don’t respond or don’t care… well, that’s your new normal – just as it would be if everyone was still in the office.

      With regard to the administrative work, sounds like you need a part-time admin. You’re the only one who can evaluate whether that cost would be higher or lower than losing that fully vaccinated staff to more flexible work environments.

      1. Grinch*

        Is it possible to hire a part-time admin to come in for one hour every day? The “must be in the office to do this” work needs to be done every day, but there isn’t a lot of it. The existing admin staff have the time in their schedules to do it.

        1. Loredena*

          Try a temp service, or a local college. There’s probably someone interested in a very part time job if you can commit to hours

      2. Overeducated*

        An individual manager may NOT be the only one who can evaluate that. A lot of budgets will not allow for additional hires based on organizational funding rules and decisions from higher levels that also fail to actually account for turnover as a monetary cost to the unit (especially when in the short term it tends to result in “extra money” to be spent somehow). A part-time admin certainly might be the ideal but I think it’s kind of wishful thinking in a lot of contexts.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      “Something that could be handled in 5 minutes with a phone call now takes a week with multiple email follow ups”

      So why don’t you pick up the phone? WFH need not exclude any form of communication that is older than the internet. I routinely have multiple phone conversations a day with my boss.

      1. Dawn*

        Heck, it was invented before household electricity.

        Regardless, I expect the answer is probably something along the lines of “I can’t get people to actually answer their phones” (maybe because they used an intra-office phone system previously and people don’t answer their personal phones or won’t provide them) but the answer circles back to “this is a management problem, if people aren’t performing you need to manage them.”

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I’ve found that coworkers are generally slower to respond to all forms of communication when working from home. Call them on Teams – yeah, good luck getting them to actually answer when you call.

          In some ways, being able to ignore interruptions can be healthy! But it can also slow things up considerably. And many of the “performance management” suggestions for solving it involve mandating availability and responsiveness in ways that annoy the hell out of employees.

          1. Dawn*

            I mean, the OP is talking about “it used to take 5 minutes, now it takes a week” and that’s not something you even have to “implement a solution to” – that’s as simple as “addressing these issues in a timely fashion is part of your job and I need you to be responsive on them.”

            Or they’re actually talking about people who aren’t in their chain of command, in which case, get used to it and do what you can because you can’t mandate they return to the office anyway.

      2. Fishsticks*

        Yeah, I don’t understand why you can’t call them via Teams or another work phone setup wherever they are?

    4. Zap R.*


      My admin job became exponentially harder when everyone else moved to WFH because suddenly every single admin/facilities task in the office became mine and mine alone.

  38. Ann O'Nemity*

    One of the companies in town is trying to lure employees back to work with free lunch. Some employees are going in only for the free food and then going back home to work, lol.

    1. Katalyst*

      The literally free lunch was one of the things I clung to with a new job mid-pandemuc (that and significantly shorter no-transit commute). After a mandatory in-person training-period I was able to transition to hybrid. It’sthe norm here & (overlapping with busy-season) when they weaned off of free lunch there were more people choosing WFH but not all.

  39. Mhm*

    Personally, the way to get me best back in the office is a good, HEPA, verified filtration system, a robust vaccination policy, paid leave with a separate system for COVID illness, and a mask policy. If you can’t do the last one, then you need to guarantee separate rooms that have good filtration systems between them.

    Uuuh, non-COVID related… I am a type of person who needs a separate work space from home to concentrate, so I’m just going to refer to the rest of you for good answers.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, “we’ve removed the mask mandate and the vaccination policy, let’s all go back to the office!” isn’t working on me either. Nor is “trust us, we improved ventilation” from the people who swore we wouldn’t be forced back into the office and are now trying to force us back to the office.

    2. FridayFriyay*

      Yup. I’m permanently remote now, but no job is worth to me the level of risk that being in person in a non-airborne virus safe office would pose. That isn’t going to change at any point in the near future no matter how many politicians erroneously declare covid to be “over.” A job that provides a safe work environment with clean air is non-negotiable but extremely rare.

  40. calvin blick*

    I can think of a few reasons management might want workers to work from the office:

    1. Communication. I’d imagine it can be tough trying to communicate to a team of 8-10 virtually. Emails don’t always get read, virtual calls lose a lot of nonverbal communication, it’s harder to get to know people on a personal level virtual level, and hard to just give orders to faceless underlings, and harder to build loyalty when you’re a faceless overlord.

    2. Trust. Most people work hard from home, but there is a certain percentage who need more instruction/training that would ideally be in person, and another percentage who are just lazy and will coast as much as possible. It’s hard to tell who those people are virtually. Plus, people can see their performance change over time as people get in over their head or lose focus working remotely, and it can be hard to get ahead of the situation remotely.

    3. Institutional knowledge. People can do their specific tasks very well from home, but I think it’s harder to build institutional knowledge remotely unless the whole team can work very well from a distance.

    4. Teamwork. I started a remote job six months ago, and the vast majority of the other people in the company either have no idea who I am, or only a very vague idea. There are probably business benefits to having the organization know each other on some level.

    Are those benefits worth the drawbacks of in-office work? Likely not in some cases. But I do think they are better reasons than the limp “we love to see your faces, here are some lame in office perks” and “this is the way we are doing it” reasoning I have seen from senior leadership at the major corporations that are forcing RTO

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      My boss is in another state, and I’ve not met most of my co-workers. This existed before as well – our company exists in multiple states so even when in the office, we are remote from our team. We collaborate just fine, we’re a team that works well together, shares knowledge. And if my co-workers are working from home or the office, they’re all the same to me. This might not be true for all jobs, but if the job can be done on a computer, it can be done remotely, with all the benefits of working on a team.

  41. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I get that I need to come to the office 5 days a week as the receptionist, but at minimum wage it would be nice to receive commute reimbursement. Especially considering my commute is a minimum 1 hour and 24 miles round trip.

  42. Katalyst*

    This is definitely NOT a dump on the people who have been told no or not-possible or “mandatory to keep your jobs” but if that’s not how you experience doing the job, have you looked or organizing/unionization or job-hunted alternatives?
    I was one of those workers in one of those offices run by those people, in one of those industries centered in one of those insane-commute metropolitan areas… until they had to send us home for 51 weeks & then demanded we come back.
    Some of us got different jobs (I had actually already been planning/looking prior) and some just couldn’t, while others straight-up declared they wouldn’t… and 18 months into my new job I haven’t heard of anyone actually fired or forced back to the old office.
    I miss some people but like to pretend they got to stay remote partly because of those of us who refused or resigned to avoid it.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree, sometimes the best option is to find an employer who offers the work format you want.

      I’m one of the (rare? weird?) people who actually hated working from home and went job searching for something that would allow me to come in person. But I’ve seen plenty of people do the opposite – find fully remote jobs instead of returning to the office.

  43. Nelalvai*

    In theory our “be in the office one day a week” rule is to promote collaboration, but I just spend the day in my cubicle not talking to anyone. Work culture was unsociable even before the pandemic. It’s too bad; I work a lot better when I get regular social with coworkers. If management somehow changed the work culture they’d get me in the office 5days/week no trouble.
    …the kittens would also work.

  44. Peace and love*

    What I really want is yes, daycare, but also flexible workweeks. I would love to be able to work 10 hour days and get EVERYTHING done for the day but then only work 4 days a week. I hate having to leave work knowing I still have stuff on my plate to do, but yet I have to just to keep my sanity intact. But if I could work longer days, then I would go into the office just to have the benefit if a 3 day weekend.

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      There’s been a trial in the UK recently on 4-day weeks. Apparently it’s been working well. Would also love this – or even if I could have alternate Fridays off

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        I’ve been in the working world for 15 years and my favorite schedule was my shift schedule of my early days. 12 hr shifts, MT on, WTh off, FSatSun on, MT off, WTh on, FSatSun off. Repeated every two weeks. Yes you worked weekends, but you also had a three day weekend every other and never worked more than 3 days before having 2 days off. It was great having days off during the week. This schedule I think is tough for people with kids, but we had some diehard parents that loved it. Obviously this assumes a location that works 7 days a week so I totally get that it wouldn’t work everywhere but it was my favorite schedule. As opposed to working 5 days a week at a facility that runs 24/7…. You never really get a break. Always on call, nights weekends holidays. I’m in research now and working 5 day weeks but in an overloaded team where 50-60 hour weeks are common even though we don’t typically work nights or weekends. I don’t like that either.

  45. Lizzianna*

    I’m a supervisor who is trying to get people to come back.

    Honestly, it hasn’t been working. We made it work because we had to for employee safety reasons, but there are a number of things where we’re not at where we need to be. There are individuals who are hitting their widgets, but the team as a whole is suffering, stuff is getting muddled as it’s getting handed from person to person, we’re having trouble integrating/training new team members.

    We’re working on a hybrid schedule for most people (there are some jobs that just can’t be done from home, no matter how much we tried to make it work, and some people who just can’t get their jobs done from home, who we’re working with on a one-on-one basis), but I am insisting that people attend certain standing meetings in person. And I have noticed a significant increase in team work just by having a bulk of a team in the office on the same day and able to connect before and after those meetings. I may lose a couple people over this, but the people protesting the loudest are the people who I’m often scratching my head wondering what they do all day when at home.

    1. Lizzianna*

      Oops, hit send too soon. I’m in government, so I can’t spend money on certain incentives, but I’ve tried to be transparent with people about why I’m insisting on the schedule I’m insisting on. I like to think that taking the time to ensure that the in person meetings are well planned, well run, and actually worth attending is helping. I also make an effort to clear my schedule those days so I can be available for people who want to drop in and chat about work, etc., especially for people for whom I’m the grandboss so have less of a reason to be calling on a day to day basis.

      1. Fishsticks*

        I think you also benefit from telling your team actual tangible things that aren’t ‘where we need to be’ – just borrowing your phrasing, since I wasn’t sure how else to word it. Like, for me, being told “we need people back in the office for these weekly meetings because production of (important thing) has dropped significantly, but we’ve seen a reverse in that trend when you’re in the office for this weekly meeting” is a lot more convincing than “we just want you all back because it’s better. No we will not elaborate.”

        1. Anonymous Koala*

          I get that it can be really hard to be specific about *why* work is better when people are in the office, but tangible metrics clearly explaining how productivity improves in the office are the only things that that would make me come back as a gov worker. It helps that my department actually saw an increase in productivity during the pandemic.

          1. Fishsticks*

            Yeah, I think being able to say, “Look, this essential aspect of our company used to be provided to clients within six months, now it’s taking more than a year and we cannot continue on that way” is just going to be more convincing than “COLLABORATION THOUGH”.

            The most convincing argument is going to be specific and involve measurable metrics employees can look at and see for themselves.

  46. Alex*

    My office just announced a complete reversal of their prior “we support complete remote work forever” message.

    As a result, I hate them.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        If employees believing what their employer tells them amounts to “unrealistic expectations,” that’s a problem with the company leadership, not the workers.

        Ditto if the company makes unrealistic promises. It’s time to start assigning responsibility in proportion to power.

    1. Glad it's the end of the week...*

      The last larger private sector employer that had been promoting their full support of remote work as recently as this spring did a complete reversal beginning of the month. It got significant local media coverage and came across as a complete shock to many people.

      I work in the public sector and my feeling is that the future of continued hybrid and remote work is tied to who wins the governor race in November. If the incumbent Democrat wins, then it stays around. If the GOP nominee who isn’t even a full time resident and is a businessperson with no prior governmental experience wins, then it’s gone except for him and his cronies. He can be governor of another state while working remotely from his home on the east coast, but hardworking state workers have to deal with a daily commute made worse by construction and bad drivers.

  47. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    How convenient. My coworkers are pushing hard to get more bus shuttles and a parking lottery after several armed robbery attempts in the area.

  48. ThursdaysGeek*

    All I needed was fast and responsive internet – something I can’t get at home. :(

    The company created a work from home policy, and almost everyone is eligible: work from home full time, split between office and home, work in the office full time – as long as the work allows it, and as long as you have adequate internet speeds.

    So, I came back to the office.

  49. SpicySpice*

    Gee, I dunno. I spend 45 min each way in a commute. That’s 90 minutes a day that I am forced into and can’t get back. Will they cut my work hours by 90 minutes to make up for the time I’m losing? More money (or stupid perks) will never make up for the fact that I have to give up 6% of my day to sit in my car.

    1. Mim*


      My commute is much shorter than yours, but I still feel it. And it’s not just the commute for me. It’s the fact that when I’m WFH I can take spend break times doing things I either want to be doing or need to be doing around the house, so I have more time for myself later. And they still feel like breaks because my brain is not doing work. (I do have an employer that encourages us to actually take two breaks a day in addition to lunch.) The best combo for me is tidying up during a morning break, jump on the treadmill during my lunch break, jump in the shower for a short afternoon break, and when my workday is over my house looks better than it did when I started my day, and I’ve also done some important self care. That’s an hour back in my life, plus the 40 minutes. 100 minutes. 500 minutes a week. That’s a lot of minutes. (I mean, I would be taking breaks/lunch at work. But not the way I’d choose to take them. Because I’m stuck at work.)

  50. Safely Retired*

    My granddaughter took a job about two and a half hours away on the agreement that she would have to be in the office one day a week for meetings. They have tried to change it to two days a week. The meetings that she has while she is there? All the other participants are remote.

  51. double standards*

    I’ve been feeling resentful of my workplace’s WFH policies since the director of our division insisted everyone needs to be in person as much as possible, while he lived and worked a state over. He now has bought a place here that he is at sometimes? But you still rarely see him here.

  52. Truth Teller*

    This entire thread is going to appear so quaint come the next recession (which may be sooner than we’d like).

    1. Dawn*

      I don’t know if it’s going to have the same impact you think it’s going to have.

      In some cases, certainly, there will be some transfer of power.

      But I think that the key point will remain that if companies want to keep competent, experienced bodies in seats, they’re still going to have to accommodate employees more than they used to.

      My employer allows me to work from home because they want to retain my skill, knowledge, and performance. A recession isn’t going to change that especially.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Yep, this. Also, recessions end and we aren’t going to forget about the extra time and convenience of WFH.

    2. Unaccountably*

      You sound like my COO, who is convinced that any minute now all the people who left their companies for fully remote positions will come crawling back, begging for their old in-office jobs because… reasons.

      Companies who allow fully remote work will have the entire country to recruit from. Companies who don’t will only be able to recruit from a small radius. That won’t change during a recession, because recessions do not change geography or population density. So companies that allow remote work will continue to be able to recruit the best employees out from under companies that don’t – that’s what happens when you offer desirable perks and working conditions.

      Will the butts-in-seats CEOs try to pull more power back? Sure. They’re trying now. But now they’re the retail of the corporate world – people get jobs there when they don’t have a choice and then leave for something better as soon as they can.

      The nature of work has fundamentally changed. The fact that power always fights back doesn’t mean ir always wins, especially against sea changes in the attitudes and expectations of entire cultures.

    3. Dinwar*

      There’s certainly a remarkable amount of hostility towards managers, especially considering the name of the blog. There’s clearly an Us vs Them mentality, and the motives assigned to Them are nearly Saturday Morning Cartoon levels of stupidity.

      Viewing this whole thing as a class struggle robs us of the capacity to discuss the nuances involved. The determination to prefer one work model over another is a lot more complicated than people are presenting it, and both options have downsides.

      I think, recession or no, in five years folks will look back on this the same way people would look back on the “I can’t work from home!!” letters from two years ago.

    4. J*


      I know I have a very valuable skillset and I’ve literally left jobs that demanded I return to office to an unsafe environment. If a workplace wants my skills, they’ll keep the status quo and if they don’t, I’ll walk and change industries. The reality is that employers love to take advantage of workers and workers have let them because we remember the last recession. But I’m not the 20 year old kid I was back then and the lesson I took from that era was to prepare for them trying to abuse me again by diversifying my skills. I’ve taken a 50% cut in pay before to work for an employer who will treat me with respect and I’ll do it again. I’ve spent my whole life preparing for a worst case scenario as I already lived it as a cancer survivor who lost insurance the day she graduated college into a recession. These people can’t control me anymore.

  53. WestSideStory*

    I believe on-site daycare would be the game changer in certain industries. (speaking for the U.S) People seem to forget that in many families, the caregiver was a grandparent or other family member. If that person died from Covid, the worker could not re-join the workforce until a reasonable solution to caregiving could be found.

    In NYC, a local business building manager mentioned in a newspaper article that he was considering this – it turned out free coffee and raffles for concerts/football tickets wasn’t moving the needle. I’ve bookmarked it and will be curious to see if this ever happens.

  54. Esmeralda*

    Offer us MONEY. Real money. Not a one time bonus. But an actual raise in pay.

    Offer us FLEXIBILITY. Option for hybrid inoffice/remote. Flexy schedules.

    Offer us a DECENT PLACE TO WORK. Don’t make us hot desk. Give us good quality equipment, supplies, software. Don’t make us use our own gear (phone, laptop, for instance). Replace sh*tty chairs. Fix crappy copiers asap.

    Offer us RESPECT. Treat us like professionals and acknowledge that we got a freakin lot of work done under dreadful circumstances the last two years. Assume that, just as we have done for the last two and half years, we will continue to do good work without having to be overseen like some Kafka character trapped in a panopticon.

    Offer us REASONABLE HOURS/WORKLOAD. If you’re not paying enough (etc– see list above) and thus can’t hire enough staff to actually get the work done, fix that. It’s YOUR problem that your business/office can’t attract workers — don’t dump the extra work on your current workers.

    And for the love of god, stop patting yourself on your back about how generous, flexible, caring, supportive you are. You aren’t. You sound like an arrogant, self-deluding fool and you make us despise you.

  55. Ann Furthermore*

    I am sort of convinced that this big push to be back in the office is being driven by the commercial real estate industry. When everyone started working from home, I thought that companies would realize how much money they could save on rent by letting people work remotely and not needing so much office space. Because really, who ultimately benefits the most by going back to how it was in the Before Times, when just about everyone commuted to the office every day? The companies who make their money from the rents paid for buildings where there needs to be enough space for a seat for every butt.

    My job now is 100% remote, and it was before the pandemic. I LOVE working from home. If something happened and I had to go back to the office, I would, because you do what you need to do in order to survive. But OMG I would hate it.

  56. C-Dub*

    I started my previous job in August 2019. The commute was 1.5 hours/55 miles ONE WAY, not to mention that I had to pay a toll to cross a bridge as well. The saving grace was that I drove a hybrid car and that saved on gas. But I never actually minded the long commute at the time. Like most others, I thought going into the office was a requirement and I accepted that.

    Then COVID hit 7 months later and my company enforced WFH on a temporary basis at first. I will admit that I was skeptical about my abilities to work from home at first because I never did it before. But one week in, I realized how much I liked it. No more 90 minute commute one way, paying tolls, and putting 32,000 miles on my car in one year, let along having to do oil change every 1.5 months. It was a waste of a lot of time and money. Plus, I had more time to exercise and got in the best shape of my life (and yes, I did it outdoors and away from other people to stay safe in 2020). Eventually, the company decided to WFH permanently, with the option of going into the office if you wanted to. Everyone was happy.

    At my current job, I work a hybrid schedule, one day a week in the office. But I don’t drive in; I take public transportation and it is not even that expensive, especially just once a week. But it is not heavily enforced and there are many people that don’t come in at all. I will admit I didn’t even come in on some weeks as well, but I try not to take too much advantage of it.

    But to force me back in the office 5 days a week? I will not be happy about it. At one job that I worked briefly for, it required 5 days a week in the office. To add insult to injury, they wanted me to start coming in on Saturdays regularly after I got up to speed because the company was so behind on deadlines. That meant commuting 45 miles one way, SIX DAYS A WEEK. It was just rubbing salt on the wound at that point. I originally took the job because it was a step up in my career, and that I was going to move closer to work. But I ended up quitting only 5 weeks later; the commute was not the main reason but it was a part of it. The main reason is a story for another day.

  57. Liz*

    Unless my company could magically teleport me to the office (rather than endure a 4 hour round trip commute) or magically lower the real estate prices and cost of living near my office so I could afford to live there (PLUS somehow make it so my partner was also able to relocate), AND give me an office ( and connectivity that is better than I have from my home office) AND somehow figure out how to relocate all the clients and vendors from around the world (who are my primary points of interaction) to be magically located near the office, what is the point?

    All things as they currently are, being in the office would mean:
    1. 20 hours a week commuting
    2. 750 miles of wear and tear on my car each week (100+ dollars of gas, plus tolls)
    3. Leaving my house at 6AM to beat rush hour and not getting home until after 7PM, leaving no time for other life priorities (family, grocery shopping, exercise, rest)–plus probably needing to do extra work from home because the commute would limit my flexibility.
    4. Having to take a full day of sick time for a 1 hour doctor appointment
    5. Not being able to effectively work because I’d be on zoom all day from a cubicle, annoying everyone around me. Plus working on a crappy computer and tiny monitor.

    ^^I did all that for many years. My life sucked.

    I get that many people like the (or have good reasons or needs for being in the) office and they should have that flexibility. I’ve also noticed that many people who like the office best live NEAR the office and have private offices to work in, and/or have emotional or social needs they try to fill with office mates rather than friends or family..

  58. Sleep Disordered*

    I worked from the office almost all the way through the pandemic, for legitimate business purposes, so I don’t begrudge them that. But I recently got a 99% remote position, and even though it was a pay cut I’m happier. Why?

    Mostly it’s that I no longer have to worry that my sleep disorder that make me very sleepy while driving could have eventually killed me.

    It is so much easier to manage the sleep disorder when I don’t have to factor in commute time, or get up so dang early. And I can take an actual power nap if I need to, now that I’m at home.

    I get to use my own bathroom and only subject my spouse to my IBS issues. And I get to wear sweatpants, which also helps!

    It’s better for my employer since it’s easier to work overtime or make up hours since I can take a break and come back to work in the evening, without having to delay dinner to just finish one thing at the office.

    Not to mention all of the other benefits like getting more exercise, my cats are great stress relief, we do less take out and more home cooking, not having to take time off work for the repair guy, and more.

    I think the only thing that could get me to go to the office was if I had kids and they provided child care at a discount or free, but that’s moot since neither of those things are true for me.

    I miss seeing people, but not enough to give up better sleep, more exercise, and my sweatpants.

    1. Avery*

      Sleep disordered folks who greatly prefer remote work high-five! I’m also working part-time, which makes it easier to get all the night-time sleep I need plus the occasional nap in. The work hours before and after my lunch break coincide well with how long each dose of the “wake-up” medicine I can take up to twice a day lasts. If I had to factor in a commute, between early morning commuting cutting into my sleep and my medicine wearing off mid-day, I definitely wouldn’t get as much done. And I like my sweatpants, too!

      1. Sleep Disordered*

        Yes! Solidarity. Technically, I am full time, but full time is 37.5 hours per week. Between cutting the commute and gaining a free half hour each day, I got 10 hours more each week to sleep, cook, or take walks. A huge quality of life boost!

        it turned out I don’t need lots of extra sleep, I just need it from 12-8. With so many jobs expecting you to be functional, presentable, and on site at 8, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be in remote only jobs for the rest of my career! Good for you for the part time! I’d love part time :D

        1. Avery*

          I do need the extra sleep myself–my baseline’s about 10 hours a night, so that definitely cuts into my waking time even before counting work in. Part time might not be what I do in the long term, but it works out well for me now, certainly! And I’m with you on hoping to be doing remote-only jobs from here on out! (I actually was in on the remote job front pre-Covid, so I had a head start on some of it!)

  59. Tuba*

    I know we like to pretend the pandemic is over nowadays, but it isn’t. If folks don’t have to be in the office their chance of a long term complication and long COVID from office work is zero. No incentive will outweigh this for me. After we better understand the long term implications of COVID I would reconsider.

    Yes, I’m pretty cautious in my personal life too.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, I’m with you. If the pandemic was over, I wouldn’t like the demand to work from the office, but I’d be more likely to do it. Now, nope.

  60. Hats Are Great*

    Honestly think employers who want employees in the office need to seriously consider either a) compensating people for commute time or b) raising salaries enough that employees can live close to the CBD (if that’s where they are). In either case, they’re going to have to pay more. I’ll happily commute that 40 minutes each way … if I get paid to commute. And I’ll happily move close to the office … if they’ll raise my salary to compensate for the increased rent.

    And if they said, “We’re raising salaries $20,000 per head but insisting on in-office work — that $20k is intended to compensate you for your time commuting or offset your increased rent to live closer,” plenty of people would probably say, “okay, fine.” But at least you’d know what it was worth to your employer, because right now it doesn’t seem like increased time/housing costs matter a single bit to them.

  61. Sammmmmmmmmmm*

    For me it was the lying about the amount of time that they wanted us back, that eventually caused me to quit.

    They always said it would be 20%* of your time in office and it would be flexible*.

    The Asterisk said in size 6 font “department dependent”. Even though they said 20% in every meeting and job ad, it was actually 3 days a week.

    When I asked the HR c-suite how 3 days a week = 20% of working hours she kindly suggested I go review basic math again and I kindly told her to get fu**ed and quit. I was a finance department manager at the time.

    Talking to people who are still there, they started docking pay for those who aren’t at the office “20%” of the time and a few have started a lawsuit over it.

    Crazy for such a massive global organization.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      That is some next-level gaslighting to suggest that 1/5 = 3/5 is basic math. Unless they don’t understand the difference between percent and hours.

    2. Dawn*

      “Go review basic math” like just holy shit, that is jaw-droppingly insulting even if she weren’t completely wrong.

    3. Former Young Lady*

      I just wanted to congratulate you on your successful escape from Dunning-Kruger, Incorporated. Sheesh, that’s egregious!

  62. I'm Sorry Dave*

    I’ve gotten emails about three separate team building events today, and it’s really starting to reek of desperation. For one of them, the “no, I can’t attend” option was basically labelled “I’m super bummed I can’t attend this awesome event.” I’m screaming.

    1. Evan Þ*

      My team has team-building events online! We have video calls and play online games like Codenames together. I really like it, and I say that as the one usually calling in from the office (by choice).

      So it is possible!

    2. Never Going Back*

      I have just stopped RSVPing to those things. I do actually have to go in tomorrow, but not to work. My boss is catering BBQ so that we can meet each other in person. She said it was mandatory and I like free food, so that’s fine. The ice cream socials and monthly birthday celebrations that HR keeps sending out are so dumb. I have no desire to go get some cheap, melty ice cream.

  63. Not coming back*

    I was one of the IT-adjacent types who was ordered back into the office and just said no and continued to work remotely. They were all…uhhh…come back? And I basically just kept doing my job really well from home and figured they’d fire me and hire someone else if it was that important for a butt to be in the seat. I was not delusional though and looked for a fully remote job while I was doing this- and I found one. I am now fully remote in a team that was remote even before the pandemic AND got a 20% raise. They are still trying to replace me and according to a friend on the hiring committee, are struggling to get qualified applicants who are willing to come to the office. I imagine they will have to make it officially hybrid at some point if they want to hire someone.

      1. Not coming back*

        Right? LOL! I did tell them that I wanted to be remote, and my boss was willing to let me do it- but the higher-ups wanted us in the office. I was not quiet about my needs, and I did excellent work- I got great reviews. I asked for what I wanted when they did the “how can we retain employees?” chats. Yet I still got the shocked Pikachu face when I quit for a remote job. *insert eye roll here* I’m not sure what they expect.

  64. John*

    For years, employers touted Work/Life balance while doing almost nothing to support it.

    Employees have seen how much WFH improves their work/life balance. They are now demanding employers make good on their word.

    It’s as simple as that. And employers make themselves look worse by trying to lure/force employees to do something counter to that.

  65. The Rural Juror*

    My company was in a unique position of having a lease coming to an end that they couldn’t renew. They’ve approached the WFH process knowing we have a huge move coming up for 200 employees. When we move, we’ll probably have hotel desk stations instead of assigned desks. They’ve brought people back 3 days a week, but are very flexible about it (and plenty of folks get accommodations for their specific situations needing more WFH). They haven’t been able to give us a ton of equipment for WFH, but seems like they’ll let us take things soon when it comes time for us to move. We’ll never be totally remote, but that makes sense for our line of work. We have to have a physical office somewhere, but only about 3 folks have to be on site 100%.

  66. QAPeon*

    Despite nearly 2 decades of always excellent reviews, I haven’t gotten better than a 4% raise except for the 2 position changes I had in that time. When we started working from home, I got to stop paying $70 a week for before/after school care, stopped paying $50 a week in gas, stopped paying $250 a month for parking, stopped buying frozen meals for lunches, stopped buying new bras and “real” pants AND I got to stop spending nearly 2 hours per day in my car.

    I’m going to need to see a really good raise to get me back in the office full time.

    1. DJ*

      So true. My employer got out of giving us a pay rise in the 2021/2022 financial year citing COVID impact. At least the fares savings from WFH helped. Now inflation is galloping they are only giving half the rate of inflation.
      We’d need a raise to cover the inflation rate of 2021/2022 plus this year’s to be back at pre COVID living levels.
      And they want us to buy lunches at twice pre COVID rates to stimulate hospitality companies. No way!

  67. Former Young Lady*

    One thing I want to point out about commuting: it always had its risks, but automobile collisions have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. It is way more dangerous now than pre-COVID — in fact, car crash deaths are at a 16-year high.

    So, on top of a pathogen that’s still circulating widely, that’s another very real hazard to factor in. Companies that are expecting staff to work onsite using Before-Times levels of risk tolerance are kidding themselves. Getting behind the wheel — or crossing the street to the bus stop — is less safe now, just like sitting in a jam-packed conference room is less safe.

    If you want your employees to take those chances, compensate accordingly.

  68. DJ*

    May of the time someone in the team I work in can’t come in on the 1-2 days we’re meant to be in so meetings are still on teams. So it’s only about half of us in.
    Also when I go in I have to set up a desk ie plug in computer, adjust seat/table, get water etc. Then noise and interruptions.
    And for the privledge I crawl on and off 3 forms of public transport over 1 hour 15 to get there.
    Whilst at home it’s all set up so I can sit, log in and go. And NO commute!

    1. Never Going Back*

      the interuptions really get to me. I didn’t even notice them until I started working from home in march 2020. Now I can get a full, busy day of work done in 5 to 6 hours. that took more than 8 when I worked in the office.

  69. Annie*

    I’m a teacher at a private secondary school. I love teaching, and being in the classroom in person is way better than teaching on Zoom; I’m happy to commute for it. But our administrators insist that we come in/stay for everything else, too: faculty meetings and parent conferences (even when the parents are Zooming in, we need to be in our classrooms) and (inane) outside speakers. When we ask why, the answers are nonsensical, but basically boil down to “we are a community! we like to see your faces!” They are impervious to any suggestion that things could be done differently.

    1. Rara+Avis*

      My school has kept the aren’t conferences remote, due to overwhelming preference of parents and teachers. Teachers love it because the program we use keeps a strict schedule; parents love it because they can do their conferences from vacation.

  70. Seeking Second Childhood*

    A no-scent policy would help. I’ve had very few migraines since March 2020–all on days when my teenager experimented with something scented. And my old HR rep had diffusers on her office so that’s a predictable no.

  71. Dinwar*

    I think the approach on both sides of this debate is wrong. What we should be doing is asking ourselves what the purpose of an office is. They existed for a reason in the past, after all. Many of those reasons (secure area for storage of equipment, centralized location to meet with other people doing similar work, standardization of issues with IT and other systems, etc) still hold true. Whether they are significant enough to warrant going into the office is obviously going to be a decision made based on the individual company, occupation, and employee. A line worker in a factory can’t work from home; a technical writer can, but may not be able to for various reasons (lack of home offices in many houses was a common complaint early in the pandemic).

    I’ve read about people renting office spaces because they had trouble working at home for a variety of reasons. If you’re going to do that anyway, may as well have the company do it and take advantage of economies of scale…

    For my part, I look forward to returning to the office. I don’t like working from home. Too many distractions, for one thing. For another, small errands now disrupt my day–I can’t just pick up some bread on the way home, I have to make a special trip for it. And I like the transition from “home” to “work”. A 20 minute commute gives me a chance to switch gears mentally.

    1. Dawn*

      A lot of the original reasons are far less viable nowadays though with the advent of the internet. The primary reason for the existence of the office was always because that was the only realistic way for people to work together.

      Nowadays, there’s often very little material difference whether someone is virtual or in-person, and while I’m sympathetic that there are people who don’t prefer to work from home, those who do are not just going to shrug their shoulders and go “Oh well, guess I’ve got to eat that one.” Many people are going to continue to prefer working from home.

  72. Bookworm*

    My response is closest to the person who wanted a ton of money, a super short commute, etc. I’ve always been averse to socializing in an office or doing those happy hour networking type of events but I don’t even want to bother leaving my house for the occasional outing. I’m here to work and nothing else and I just can’t be bothered anymore.

    There also has to be a reason: I left a job earlier in the pandemic because it came down to management wanting us to be in the office because they’re control freaks who are terrible managers. I’ll certainly concede in-person collaboration can be useful but if you’re a worker who pretty much just needs a computer and an internet connection, that can be anywhere.

    And not everyone cares about career advancement either. This wasn’t something that was particularly useful for me (in office work) pre-pandemic, so that isn’t changing now. What it comes down to, as many people have said, is some sort of rethink of the how and why we work but too many orgs continue to refuse to have this conversation.

    1. Never Going Back*

      SAME. i have absolutely zero desire to advance to management within my department, but I can get more money for taking on more tasks. and i’ve been doing it remote for 2.5 years now.

  73. 22five*

    My main reason for not heading in unless I will lose my job comes down to the fact that the pandemic is far from over and I and my spouse are high risk if we contract Covid. We have cut out all in person except for medical appointments. All of our shopping is online and curbside pickup. I’m working on an ADA accommodation, but my doctor claims “he cannot tell my employer where I should work.” I have to push my doctor to come through for me with a more strongly worded letter.

    As an older worker, I am not keen to jump ship unless forced out. Supposedly, even those who are 100% remote will need to come in at least six days a year. Not sure if this will be applied to those with ADA accommodations. If I manage to get the accommodation, yet still have to come in, I’ll be there with a p100 elastomeric mask and goggles. It won’t be easy to work wearing my gear, so being in person will inevitably be counterproductive.

    As to al the other points – I have IBS and ADHD, and have not disclosed to my employer. WFH has been a godsend, as I don’t have to worry about a blowout while in a meeting or while commuting. I found it very hard to focus on the office, so WFH has been massively helpful on that front as well. I also am a night owl, so not having to stumble out of bed and spend the first three hours in the office pretending to work because I was a zombie, has been so much better for my health.

    I cannot understand my colleagues who think getting Covid is ok and not an issue. It’s a vascular disease and damages the immune system. Impact of subsequent infections on the immune system is cumulative. Prior infection does not confer immunity. Even publishers like the Financial Times are writing articles about increased health insurance costs and actuarial tables reveal that life expectancy continues to drop while excess deaths are increasing. I feel like I’m living in a world of funhouse mirrors, and I’m one of the few who can still see my actual reflection.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Fellow ADHDIBSer, here, and I second that godsend remark!

      Bless the hearts of all these people who rave about CoLLaBoRaTiOn!!!1 I wonder if they’re the same folks who used to stop me with “quick questions” as I approached the ladies’ room door, or barge into my office and start yelling questions while I was on the phone?

    2. J*

      I’m high risk and I feel you so much. I wish the ADA had more teeth for this.

      I just wanted to say how hard I know it must be as more places have dropped masking and only increased workplace spread risk. I spent yesterday at the gravesite of a family member I lost to a workplace exposure 1 year ago and literally nothing could change my mind on how I’m handling this phase of the pandemic after such an incident. I know it’s probably very hard mentally on you to adjust your life this way and have the rhetoric change and I just wanted to say you aren’t alone even if it feels like it.

    3. It’s Actually Takes a Village*

      Totally agreed on the funhouse. How are we the crazy ones when the reports, and data are saying what they’re saying?!

  74. Never Going Back*

    the ONLY thing that would get me back in the office would be if my salary was doubled AND i didn’t have to pay for parking AND i could work the same hours I work at home (1030ish to 4ish). I’d still try to negotiate lower health care costs while i was at it

  75. nnn*

    Building on Alison’s point that employers need to have legitimate reasons to make people come into the office, I’d recommend a starting point of “Employees are required to come into the office as and when needed. In addition, employees are welcome to come into the office whenever they want.”

    Possible outcomes:

    1. Employees immediately recognize that “as and when needed” won’t work for your organization, and you need something more structured. Then you have an employee-led return to office rather than employer-mandated.

    2. People try out “as and when needed” and come to the realization that they’d do better with something more structured. So you have a bit of initial confusion that ultimately leads to an employee-led return to office, with employees understanding from direct personal experience that and why it’s necessary.

    3. There’s an inconsistent understanding of what “as and when needed” means, which ultimately leads to clarifying what is actually necessary.

    4. It works, everyone is happy.

    The specifics would vary greatly from organization to organization, but a solid, fair policy starts with very serious consideration of what “as and when needed” would look like.

  76. Choggy*

    The only way I would return to the office 5 days a week is if they sent a limo for me. The commute I’ve had for the last 18 years has grown exponentially worse after Covid and I dread it every time I have to go in. At least I’ve been able to whittle it down to two days a week. I am counting my blessings until something changes.

  77. Lizzie*

    we started with one day, then two, and recently, 3 days IN the office. While I prefer one or two, 3 is doable, if they ever go to 4 (we were allowed to WFH one day a week pre-COVID), I will not be happy.

    all throughout the pandemic, leadership praised us for working “so well from home, our clients couldn’t tell” now all of a sudden, they want us back in, well because, its what needs to be done. Um ok, but why?
    my office is cold. freezing cold. and the lights are really bright, to the point it gives us headaches and whatnot. my home office, aka my dining room is a much better environment. I work better there too.

    so i really hate that companies are saying its necessary to be IN the office, when really, its not.

  78. TotesMaGoats*

    I’m currently 3 days a week in the office. I miss being totally WFH. I’m not more productive. Most meetings are on teams or zoom. Our students aren’t using in person services by choice. Our on campus classes are small. Our online classes are busting at the seams but…let’s have an open campus. Faculty, on the other hand, get to continue to work from home or move across the country and get an online/zoom schedule. When asked by my boss why faculty weren’t coming in person for meetings, I reminded him that he hadn’t told anyone it was mandatory.

    I hate this. I was much happier being home all the time. I was in better physical health. I just saw a fully remote job with appropriate pay but I also just started a doc program that is fully covered by my current job.

  79. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I work with the public, but at this point, the public doesn’t come into the office much. I’d be happy to come in as many days as necessary to provide the level of in-person coverage that the office needs, but as it is, I sit at my desk 4 days a week doing virtual work with colleagues who can’t modulate their voices when they’re talking into headsets.

    I’d even come in for an extra day to be an informal mentor to my newer teammates, but give me the schedule and the official role. Right now I’m as experienced as my supervisor, and she has the same WFH day as me, which seems a poorly planned strategy.

  80. Maggie*

    My management is a great example of how not to do in-person. I’ve done every variation on remote/hybrid since 2020, fully remote most of 2020, working every third week, every other week, four days a week, you name it. Now I’m full time in the office, but a good third of the employees are hybrid and a few are fully remote (including our HR rep…wish I was joking). The company’s line is everyone must be in the office…except the people with enough political capital or importance. My entire team is actively looking for work elsewhere, and we’ve lost so much staff it’s a running joke at this point, including people who have been here 5 or more years.

  81. ProofreaderReads*

    I’m still surprised by how many people can just refuse to return to work.
    In my day job, returning to work is non-optional. just not doing so wouldn’t result in bribes, just unemployment.

  82. Lemon Curd Nails*

    One thing I was really hoping for Alison to address were the comments around open plan/hotdesking. The popular expectation that offices no longer have to offer quiet/productive/private workspaces has changed the entire game and feels like something we should talk about. My work office is an open-plan hotdesking situation (without even offering cubicles – they’re open counters that you sit at with your laptop). If the workspace is optimized to “fit in as many people as possible” then it isn’t optimized for “quiet productivity and sense of pride/ownership” and I feel like that’s a big part of the equation, too. Also, there’s so much evidence that people hate these spaces, and so little evidence that it leads to “collaboration,” that surely it’s time to really examine the trend?

    If the choice was between “my private home office” or “fairly private cubicle where I didn’t have to adjust the monitor settings every time I plugged in, because I could keep them permanently set to work with my own laptop, and perhaps have a drawer or small corner of desk where I could permanently keep a reusable coffee cup,” then I’d actually be quite interested in going in to the office. I feel like my desires are small and humble, actually! Most workplaces consider it pretty normal to let you have your own monitor settings and coffee cup! I’m not asking for comfy chairs, potted plants, holiday decorations, or to have photographs of family plastered around me! But I’d like the ability to sit down and settle in to do my work, which is hard to do in a space that feels like a public canteen.

  83. WillowSunstar*

    If they really want people back in the office, more pay will need to be given as an incentive. People have noticed they save more money by not spending it on gas constantly and they save more time by not having to commute. Also, don’t forget the cost of keeping a wardrobe of nice office clothes, having to keep all of that clean, etc.

  84. S'Matt*

    While I’m permanent WFH, I see what my company is doing to get people back in three days a week: they’re changing the office spaces so there are rows of desk with three-inch high walls between the rows, and nothing separating spaces on the same row. No seats are permanently assigned, so all personal belongings either go home with you or in a locker. At one of the largest financial services firms in the country. Such incentive.

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