have we changed our views about working from home?

A reader writes:

I’d love to have your take and the readers’ take on whether society as a whole has changed its view on working from home.

Most of last year, I was job searching, and something an interviewer said once has stuck with me. I was in a second interview for an office job in a non-customer-facing role. When it was time for me to ask questions, I asked if the team was usually fully in-office, hybrid, or remote. I added that I didn’t have specific expectations around remote or office work and was just curious since the job description didn’t say.

They said they do allow remote work upon approval for specific circumstances, like being sick or needing to stay home to let in a repair technician. One of the interviewers said, “But it only takes one missed phone call when you’re working from home for your colleagues to lose all trust in you.” They agreed that the first time that someone isn’t immediately available, the privilege of working from home would be taken away. And then they bashed the former employee in this position because he once let an unscheduled phone call from a colleague go unanswered during work hours and didn’t call back for a couple minutes. A couple minutes. They also implied that that contributed to him being let go because, based on that one missed call, he clearly wasn’t working when at home (they said this with eyerolls and attitude). I was taken aback and said something like “oh, maybe he was just in the bathroom?” and tried to lightheartedly move on. But they responded that even if you’re just stepping away for a quick bathroom break when working from home, of course you’d need to communicate that with all staff first via chat. It was a small number of staff — I think 10 or so — but still.

They continued harping on the point that it was a “trust issue” (implying that people at home can’t be trusted, and I guess also that no one in the office steps away from their desk or goes to the bathroom?). I nodded and smiled but I was confused on why they spent so much time reiterating that when working from home you need to prove every second that you’re working, when it didn’t sound like they worked from home much, if at all, to begin with.

I still wonder about this. I’ve only had office jobs that have been quite flexible (still true with my new job, thankfully!), where bathroom breaks weren’t micromanaged or timed and taking small breaks and pouring another cup of coffee during the day were usually encouraged — regardless if your work location is at home or in the office.

I’ve worked on hybrid teams since 2020. The occasional missed phone call would be a non-issue in the places I’ve worked, so I don’t have a frame of reference for this. The need for WFHers to be always immediately available (when you’re probably not always immediately available when you’re in the office either) seems to come from the now-outdated stigma that “all people who work from home are slackers” or whatnot. Or at least, I thought that view was outdated … Is it more common than I think, even now in 2024, to expect more from people who work from home than people in the office? How evolved are we? I’d love your take.

There are indeed still places like the one you interviewed with. But they’re in a shrinking minority, as they should be.

The people you interviewed with weren’t giving you data about what’s reasonable in the work world — they were telling you about themselves and their dysfunctional culture. It’s a good thing that they did, so that you knew not to accept a job there.

The idea that someone working from home needs to announce their bathroom breaks is absurd. The idea that someone taking a few minutes to return a call is clearly slacking off and unresponsive is absurd. As you point out, these wouldn’t be the expectations if everyone were in the office. Both of those statements betray a mindset that anyone working from home will slack off at the smallest opportunity and therefore we must subject them to excessive pressure to “prove” they’re working. They also betray a lack of ability to actually manage people — because effective managers know that the way to spot someone who’s not working is to look at people’s work output, not to ask them to log when they pee.

We saw a ton of this in early 2020, when so many employers switched to remote working overnight and managers who had never been expected to manage remotely before (and who maybe never managed all that well in person either) suddenly had to figure out how to do it. Witness the slew of 2020 letters here about bosses who wanted everyone to stay on video all day long, panic-buying software to spy on remote workers, demanding three check-in’s a day, and so forth.

But it’s been four years. Most companies have figured it out. You just ran into a crappy one.

{ 407 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Oh right because every single person who goes to the office never, EVER slacks off, surfs the web all day, takes 45 minutes to run to Starbucks, takes a two hour long, and chats for hours on end.

    Please. If you’re going to avoid doing work, you’ll find a way to do it no matter where you are. Did no one ever see Office Space?!

    1. ferrina*

      Truth. I’m less productive in the office than I am at home. Am I focused on work every second of every day? Of course now, I need my AAM breaks! And that’s going to happen no matter where I am.
      When I take a break at the office, I’m more likely to drag a colleague with me as we chat about random stuff for 30 minutes. When I take a break at home, I hang out with my cat or do dishes and not distract my colleagues.

      1. CR*

        I’m away from my computer more when I’m at the office too simply because our office is big so walking to the kitchen or bathroom takes more time! And of course the chatting to colleagues.

        1. Desk Dragon*

          The amount of time I used to spend in office trying to get the vending machine to accept my credit card OR cash, just please give me my Coke Zero… Now I just walk to my fridge and am back at my desk in 30 seconds.

      2. Baby Yoda*

        Not to mention spending less time on breaks without the long walk to the restroom on other end of the floor.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          I was just thinking, it takes me less time to have a comfort break at home. I go, use the facilities, and zoom right back. In office I have to grab my badge, badge into the portion with the restrooms, walk down several hallways, and then reverse it all.

          1. Em*

            yep! I group my kitchen visits/bathroom breaks because it requires about 5 minutes of walking and badging back in to get to my “neighborhood” (barf) of desks to the kitchen/bathroom area.
            The “neighborhood” of desks is another productivity killer- nothing like being exposed to everyone’s teams calls all day because there are only 4 call rooms available and most people don’t care to tote all their stuff to and fro all day.

      3. allathian*

        Yes, same for me. I’m a translator, which means sitting at the computer and typing into a piece of translation software most of the time. When I’m updating an old text, I tend to click “translate all” and wait for the system to process it.

        We can’t use machine translation for most jobs because of confidentiality issues, and we haven’t had the resources to train an internal AI translator yet. That said, in my experience the quality of machine translations in the languages I work with is so poor that editing a machine translation takes more time than translating from scratch.

        But because both I and my coworker are experienced translators, there’s basically no need for synchronous collaboration, which can be useful when training a new translator, and only some asynchronous collaboration (proofreading) for particularly critical translations.

        I basically go to the office to talk to people, either about work or simply to socialize with my coworkers. I do get some work done, but my manager is fine with me being slightly less productive at the office.

        I enjoy WFH, but I wouldn’t want to do it FT, been there, done that, both in my current job during Covid lockdowns and before that, when I was a freelancer. I value being trusted to do my job remotely, but I wouldn’t want to work alone without a community of coworkers.

        That said, going to the office means more walking during the day.

    2. fidget spinner*

      lol yep, I’m at work right now, taking a little break and browsing AAM.

      But funnily enough, I do work from home sometimes, and I feel super guilty for taking a break when I work from home. I have more of a “butts in seats” mentality than I thought I had.

      1. fidget spinner*

        Also I am extremely jealous of people who can work from home full-time. My job just isn’t the kind where that’s possible because it’s client-facing. And I’ve looked elsewhere for a remote job, but everything I’d found would be a huge pay cut.

        I have dogs, and their lives would be so much better if I could work from home and take them outside at lunch and play with them during breaks. :(

    3. samwise*

      There are terrible employers where you have limited breaks/bathroom breaks and are expected to work pretty much every minute, phones are not allowed, websurfing not allowed (and online behavior is tracked).

    4. MAC*

      During the peak of the pandemic, I had a manager who was very open with her distrust about whether people were actually working while at home. I pointed out that unless she was going to stand over my shoulder 8 hours a day in the office, she couldn’t know that in person either. People who are going to slack off are going to do it wherever they are and strong performers are going to be strong performers wherever THEY are.

      1. Mike D*

        This kind of generalization is easy to disprove… at my job two companies ago, a peer manager was struggling to understand why a previously highly-rated (by a non-technical manager) devops guy was never able to do anything other than fight fires. Found out his previous manager had an informal WFH 3 days/week arrangement which he had informally turned into 5, which was fine, except when she was on premises (we were in Austin, he was in Atlanta), she tried to find him on a supposedly in-office day only for him to say he was in a conf room and on his way; she looked for him and couldn’t find him; 20 minutes later he showed up obviously sweaty after what we all laughingly presumed later was one of those Scooby Doo hallway / doors scenes.

        Turns out he was moonlighting with us (full-time salary of course) and spending most of his time on another job, which is why he was only able to put out fires and never really did any improvements to prevent fires in the future. Previous manager was fooled by the hero mode stuff and thought he was incredible. My peer manager who tried to find him already knew better (she was sharper technically than the previous one).

        yes, his previous manager was the real problem, but it would’ve been impossible for him to do this moonlight with us thing had he been 5 days in the office! so it’s not really as simple as you can slack anywhere.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          I work with people who for years before the pandemic were in the office physically every day and who did nothing. It’s not the location that’s the problem. The problem, as you say, lies with the manager and with the specific employee.

          1. Lady Danbury*

            100% this. We’ve all seen AAM letters complaining about co-workers working on their personal business during work time or whatever. It’s entirely possible for someone who works in person to spend all day working on third party work or designing their website or just plain goofing off. Proper management is required, no matter the location.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I once had a very inflexible paid internship where it was butts-in-seats 8 hours every day, half hour unpaid lunch, restricted internet use, etc. I also had an extremely checked-out manager who wouldn’t answer my questions about how to do my job and a mentor who was never available to meet with me.

              So I spent 7 hours a day, five days a week, head-down at my computer, diligently playing spider solitaire for almost the entire internship. No key logger, IM status, or internet activity monitor would have caught me.

              What I’m saying is, there isn’t actually a substitute for management and checking their actual work if you want to know if your employees are performing well.

            2. JustaTech*

              As the Prince song goes “something close to nothing, but different than the day before”.
              I had a coworker who always *looked* busy, and he used up lab materials like he was going to get a Nobel prize, but every time it was his turn to present his data it was either so badly done as to be useless, or essentially nothing. He was the guy who came in on the weekends rather than learn to make his own lunch.

              Honestly, I’d *rather* work with the dude upstairs who just watched anime all day than the guy who looks busy and makes a ton of work for other people but accomplishes nothing.

              Accomplished slackers can slack from anywhere.

          2. Lacey*

            Yup. Pre pandemic I had a manager who was always working on mysterious projects and was so frustrating about assigning us projects without using the proper ticketing software! He also never gave us kudos for this, often more complicated, work (we had a system for that) which left us feeling unappreciated.

            Welp. He was using company time & resources to do freelance work! And when he couldn’t complete it himself, he assigned it to one of us!

            He was in the office! Using employees in the office!
            And because our management sucked… he got away with it for quite a while.

          3. Me--sometimes in office*

            This, and SAME.

            Some people thrive when they’re in the office, but personally, I think a hybrid structure is better. My office has said repeatedly they are not going back to full-onsite, but some leaders have been encouraging us to be here often, especially when stuff is going on. It makes no difference if I’m at home or not — if I have stuff to do, I’ll be doing it.

        2. Antilles*

          Of course you can find exceptions to every rule. I’m sure there are employees who’d be more productive with someone breathing down their neck or who’ll take an opportunity to pull wild stuff (like your example) if there’s the chance.

          But the prevalence of this sort of thing is FAR less than some managers seem to think it is. And even if you have an employee like that, these sorts of things can usually be sniffed out if management actually knows their job and how to judge productivity/effectiveness.

        3. Kes*

          As others have said, you can definitely still slack in person. And while the story about the manager searching for him is funny, it sounds like what was actually originally raising concerns was that he wasn’t getting work done, which is something she had already noticed while he was WFH.

          1. Mike D*

            The SECOND (better) manager (and I) noticed it. The first one did not; but had he been in office it would have been impossible not to see even then.

        4. Lily Potter*

          My boss got seriously burned by allowing WFH long after it was needed for Covid/public health reasons. He had an employee who outright lied to him about having required offsite child care during working hours. The employee’s performance was mediocre at best; my boss kept trying to coach her to be better, but that went nowhere. When boss found out that she had a small child at home alone with her during working hours, everything made sense (he fired her, as he should have). As her successor, WFH for me is allowed only sparingly. I suspect it will be allowed more as trust is built between boss and me, and I can show productivity where by predecessor did only enough to skate by. I don’t blame him for being skeptical for awhile, though.

          1. lapsed historian*

            That was pretty cruel of your boss. Unfortunately it sounds like you’ve bought into his punitive worldview rather than viewing with compassion the struggle of a working parent to find adequate, not ruinously expensive childcare.

          2. selena81*

            What’s wrong with mediocre? Sounds like your boss is manipulating you to go above&beyond for a mediocre salary.

            1. Lily Potter*

              Nope. I’m paid market-rate hourly at this job, whether I’m in-office or at home. The position has parts that can be done fine remotely and parts that are best done in person. The office parts can be done remotely but not with anywhere near the same efficiency. Most parts of the job require brainpower – it’s not the kind of job where you can be interrupted every five minutes by an active child.

              I told this story not to vilify my boss but to show that WFH doesn’t work for every boss/position, even if it’s great for the employee. I’m totally fine that my boss terminated this employee – she was perfectly aware that she was to get child care in order to keep her job and chose not to do so. My boss was fine with her mediocre output while the area was on lockdown but didn’t want to continue with that arrangement indefinitely. Expensive childcare is not his problem to solve.

              And yes, I’m paying the price for my predecessor’s sins. Over time, I foresee his resolve about WFH softening some – he’ll see that when I do it, stuff actually gets done! Plus, I’m never going to advocate for 100% WFH because I can see that the demands of the job just aren’t in line with that setup.

          3. Fishsticks*

            That sucks that she couldn’t afford childcare on her salary and her boss was so deeply punitive about it. I mean, good for you that you got her job, though, I guess.

            Having worked at home with two small children for more than two months when schools and daycares shut down for the pandemic – but my job sure didn’t – I know how hard it was to handle when I had no other options. I made it work, but my productivity definitely had to suffer as a result. Thank goodness my boss understood and wasn’t punitive or nasty about it.

            1. Lily Potter*

              From what I know of this boss, he’s not the type to have told this employee “Have childcare this time next week or you’re fired”. My guess is that the employee was given time to find arrangements, didn’t find anything that worked for her financially or logistically, and decided to roll the dice/lie to the boss/hope for the best. In this case, it came back to bite her.

              The boss was not punitive or nasty. He told the employee that she needed to get childcare in order to WFH, and terminated her when she instead lied on an on-going basis about having done that. How was he supposed to trust her going forward?

              It might have worked out better if the boss had required the employee to be at least partially in-office, since parts of the job don’t lend themselves well to WFH in the first place. If he’d done that, the lack of childcare thing might have come to light sooner and saved everyone a lot of grief.

        5. Guinan's Hat*

          People found ways to moonlight before WFH; the term’s been around a long time. Just because *this specific* scam relied on WFH doesn’t mean that (a) you’re going to be dealing with a huge number of workers trying something like this or (b) that a determined moonlighter won’t be able to find a way, even working a 9-5.

          Also: Without condoning what this guy was doing, I must point out, he wasn’t actually slacking. He was working very hard! Dishonestly, and without getting things done, but still, not slacking.

    5. AnonInCanada*

      Or (gasp!) maybe that “slacker” was on another call at the moment the colleague called, thus said “slacker” physically couldn’t take their call at that precise moment? That sounds more like entitlement than anything. The world doesn’t revolve around anyone. And that company can bite a big bag of…rocks.

      1. SD95*

        This was my thought too. I’d also hate to think if someone had morning sickness or something and had to immediately go to the bathroom. I would be more concerned about making to the bathroom than sending a message to everyone that said, “Hey, I’m going to throw up so I won’t be on for a bit.”

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah, absolutely. My coworkers will let me know if they need to step out for a minute (walk the dogs, pick up a prescription, etc.) but we’re certainly not alerting each other to our bathroom needs. No one needs us THAT urgently.

    6. Abundant Shrimp*

      Yeah, I’m having memories of working in a two-person shared office, where people used to drive me and my officemate bonkers by parking right in front of our open office for long and loud impromptu chats. I guarantee you none of them answered their phones during that time.

      Or several hours long meetings away from your desk, or people driving halfway across town for a long, relaxed group lunch at a nice restaurant. And in my experience, the higher up the corporate chain, the worse it gets.

      Only difference between slacking off at home and in the office is that, half the time when someone does it in the office, they are a distraction to everyone around them, who then cannot get their work done either.

      1. Lacey*

        Absolutely. When I worked in office at my most recent job there were 3 days a week where my mornings were pointless. Because a particular coworker was in those days and she held loud conversations right outside my door all morning long.

        She wasn’t working. I wasn’t working. The person she was talking to wasn’t working. And I’d hazard a guess that none of the 3 other people nearby were either.

    7. Pizza Rat*

      I have brought this up many times in many spaces and there are still people who want butts in seats they can see just for the sake of having butts in seats for them to look at.

      It’s tiring.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Could we get them a framed photo or something? Just look at the nice picture of the miserable cubicle-farm drones and know that all is right with the world.

      2. Cinn*

        In my experience the higher up the food chain the more this “we want to see the butts in the seats” attitude comes out.

        We (sort of) went hybrid during the height of the pandemic. Most of the regular workers are cool with everyone making the choice that works best for them. Most of their immediate managers are okay with that too (and it’s telling that the only people who weren’t – even when COVID was at its most prevalent – were the building busybodies who spent at least as much time monitoring everyone else as doing their actual work).

        But, since we’re also clearly going through a “get everyone back in the building full time” drive, higher management overall doesn’t agree. Since we have all our stats that show our department performance is actually improving year on year even with all the hybrid working, we can only conclude it’s an attitude to home working thing.

        1. Justin D*

          all it takes is one anecdote about someone sleeping or working two jobs and they can use that as justification for not allowing it

      3. JustaTech*

        It’s “laugh so you don’t cry” hysterical when the person who wants “butts in seats” also wants you to simultaneously be at your desk *and* in the lab.

        Dr Grumble: “Where is everyone?! Everyone is supposed to be on-site today!”
        Lab Rat (walking through from the bathroom): “Everyone’s in the lab today, we’ve got three big procedures going.”
        Next Day
        Dr Grumble: “Why isn’t anyone in the labs?”
        Lab Rats: “Because we don’t have lab work today.” or “We finished the lab work before lunch.” or “We’re analyzing the data.”

        Repeat ad Infinium.

    8. Check cash*

      People would stand outside the bathroom for literally an hour some days. Also, during March Madness, everyone had their phones up streaming “back in the day” when we were in office.
      And, for me as a single mom, I would rush into work and rush out at a very specific time because I had to go pick up or drop off my kid….Now Im just here. She can leave and come home and I can still be working…
      It just makes me think that these people are not good workers in other ways and are bad at managing in a multitude of ways, because it lacks common sense and also…imagination?

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        This is a really good point. WFH-ing, if I have to get someone off the bus, I can take my fifteen minute break, get them off the bus, and be back to it. If I’m in office, I am leaving at that particular time, no cuts no buts no coconuts.

    9. Chick-n-Boots*

      100% – those interviewers were off their rockers! What amazes me is that it’s so clear that people like that do not hear themselves when they speak and they’ve never bothered to do even the tiniest bit of interrogation into how valid those ideas actually are in practice. Either that or they are telling on themselves – if they were WFH, they’d be slacking off all the time so they assume everyone else would too.

      My office went fully remote at the beginning of the pandemic……and never went back. Our Executive Director (thank GOD) recognized relatively quickly that everyone was just as productive (if not more so) remote than they were in the office. It created a lot more flexibility for everyone and by and large, it made most staff happier. We do still have some office space for those that prefer that, and we bring teams together about once a month or so for an in-person touch base. It works really, really well.

      1. selena81*

        It feels so very obvious that these people are slacking off constantly, but have convinced themselves that that can’t be true because by definition nobody in an office is slacking.
        Any reasonable measure of productivity would call them out and prove WFH is fine, so they cannot ever let the idea take root.

      2. JustaTech*

        At the beginning of COVID my in-laws still owned their small business and were having an incredibly hard time with the idea of letting their front-office staff WFH. (The warehouse folks were stuck, but at least they had space and masks and there were only two of them.)

        My MIL would go on and on about the sales gal must not be working *at all* because she said she tossed a load of laundry in at lunch. Meanwhile my MIL is mailing us jigsaw puzzles and asking us how bored we are, even though we had explained several times that we were still working full time – to the point that my husband had several 9 hour days of solid meetings where I had to slide his lunch under his office door or he wouldn’t have eaten.

        Some people just have an incredibly hard time understanding that their experience of the world is not the same as everyone else’s.

    10. linger*

      When management is so quick to assume everyone is slacking, it’s often because they’re projecting their own behaviour onto others. These are the managers who arrive late and leave early, who take 2-hour lunches, who go golfing in the afternoon, and who are never available to their reports in their supposed in-office hours. And so they believe (i) everyone else would do it if given any opportunity; and so (ii) effective management requires documentation of the consistency of their employees’ diarrhoea.

      1. Chirpy*

        Nope, I’m absolutely not reading this while waiting the last 10 minutes before I can clock out….hahaha

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Those people are way outside normal business culture.

    That’s not an office job. That’s being on the bridge of the USS Enterprise and formally asking Captain Picard for another officer to relieve you at your station.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Well, there are no bathrooms on the Enterprise so maybe that’s why people keep relieving themselves at their stations….

      1. Lana Kane*

        There has to be something, or else how does the replicator turn poop into food?
        Actually, forget I asked.

        1. space elf*

          they just beam the waste straight out of people. Why have bathrooms when you have transporter technology? what do you think poor Chief O’Brien was doing all day in the transporter room? He was busy. I guarantee it. ;)

  3. Abe Froman*

    Its great when companies tell you exactly who they are in the interview process. Glad you dodged this bullet, OP.

    1. Le Sigh*

      I once had an interview like this. The interviewer said a number of things that tripped my spidey senses and made me think he was a petty, immature micromanager. I declined a second interview — I was already working for a dysfunctional nightmare, so I wasn’t about to burn another PTO day to interview for a job at a different dysfunctional nightmare.

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah, honestly, I’m sure even if you like being 100% in office, that company would’ve been a nightmare!

  4. Justme, The OG*

    I miss calls ALL THE TIME when I’m in office. Because I’m doing things like using the restroom, or taking a walk. That is ridiculous.

      1. Hush42*

        I miss so many calls because I spend half of my days in meetings. Our sales team has never really grasped the concept of Teams statuses so they’ll call even if I’m in a meeting. I will call them back when I have time (or direct their question to the person who they actually supposed to be calling) but I miss just as many calls in the office due to this as I do when I’m working from home. I actually probably miss fewer calls at home than I do in the office because I can hear my computer ringing from anywhere in my house but if I’m in the kitchen at work there is a 0% chance I would hear it in my office on the other end of our very large office space.

        1. Min*

          Teams statuses are unreliable. I cannot count how many times I’ve messaged or called someone who showed as Available and then the status changed to On a Call or Presenting as soon as I called/messaged.

          1. Fishsticks*

            100%. Teams routinely changes me over to “idle” when I am literally sitting there typing in my work screen, ACTIVELY working. It’s a mess.

    1. ferrina*

      I once had a coworker chew me out because I missed her Slack message because I was in a meeting. She was also in this meeting (though she was remote). I was literally sitting across the table and slightly to the right of the CEO- direct eyeline. Of course I wasn’t going to be responding to her non-urgent messages!

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I just had a coworker follow up, while we were in meetings all day for a week, on a request she made while I was out on vacation the previous week. Um, no, I haven’t had a chance to do your small but complicated request, I’m still digging out from two weeks of being away from my desk. (And now I just quit so I’ve got a lot on my plate as I figure out how many things I need to tell other people before I’m gone forever….sorry, Jenny, it may be awhile until I get to your request.)

        1. linger*

          Under the circumstances, Jenny’s task sounds like something you won’t get to at all. Can you hand it off to someone else faster than you could complete it?

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Being in the office is way worse for timely responses because it’s much harder to multi task during an in person meeting!

    3. sara*

      Oh man, same… I mute the sound on my computer when I’m in the office, plus there’s people to talk to, the bathroom’s farther away, etc. I’m way more responsive on slack at home than at the office… Plus impromptu meetings run into planned meetings, etc etc.

    4. Honey Badger just don't care*

      I miss them all the time because I have the sound turned off for notifications etc on my PC and I never see the incoming call pop up because I’m focused on my main screens where it’s not visible. Besides, if you want to talk to me, you should IM me first to ensure I’m freaking available or schedule a meeting!

    5. not nice, don't care*

      My staff profile actually says email is best. I almost never answer my phone because I can give much better customer service when I can look up contextual info and frame a detailed reply. I deal with a lot of details, deadlines, and legal stuff that can be garbled or missed in a call.

      I am now wfh part time, and no one checks up on me. Some colleagues in other departments work more and less from home, and even folks with micromanagey bosses aren’t hounded every second.

    6. HigherEd Boundaries*

      I serve in an on-call rotation (higher education), and while most of the time I would expect to get calls on my work cell while I’m home for the night, sometimes I do get the occasional call during the day. I’ve had it happen twice in the last year where I step away from my desk to go to the bathroom, and UPD calls my cellphone 3 times, in succession, and then calls our admin asking where I was.

      Our Admin has a direct line of sight to my office, and every time, she has told them that most likely I was in the bathroom since I was heading that way; no – being on call doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be answering the phone while I’m on the toilet; and that since this is during normal business hours, they are more than welcome to call our main office since we all handle emergencies during business hours.

    7. Hush42*

      This. My team has a shared phone line where clients get sent when they have questions pertaining to what my team handles. The problem is that client calls are fairly infrequent like maybe 1-2 calls most days. The problem for my team actually ended up being that they were infrequent because everyone was engrossed in their work and figured someone else would grab the phone so way too many client calls ended up going to VM, which is a big no-no. So my solution was that the members of the team are each “assigned” to answer the phone (if it rings) for 2 hours sections of the day. That way you know if you’re responsible for the call coming in or not. If it’s your “time” then you send an IM to the group chat if you have to step away from your computer to use the bathroom, get coffee, whatever. But the IM literally just says “brb” because nobody cares WHY you’re stepping away, just that they have to pick up the phone if it rings ’cause you can’t. The thing is, this process started in 2018 long before WFH was really a think and they do it regardless of whether or not they are in the office or at home. Because people in the office are away from their desks at least as often, if not more often, than they are when they are at home. And if it isn’t your “time”, no one cares one whit whether or not you are away from your desk .

    8. Dang it Jim I’m IT not HR*

      Sometimes I straight send people to Voicemail (which tells them to call the helpdesk if it is urgent) because otherwise I would never get anything done. Now I understand if someone is missing every call and message and is otherwise impossible to reach. I had a ticket this week from a manager who was asking how it could be possible for Teams to show available when the employee isn’t working. I ended up telling her that if the employee isn’t working and you have complaints then this is an HR issue not an IT one. There are a few reasons teams can show green, some because they are using a mouse jiggler and some because teams is a buggy app and statuses can mean nothing.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I love the username, and also “because teams is a buggy app and statuses can mean nothing”. Yup. One of my teammates frequently has a Skype status of both “Available” and “Out of Office”, and I’ve learned to just go with the weirdness.

      2. Zweisatz*

        Or because they are logged in on their phone and their laptop. The former will make the letter have an active status even if the employee is off work.

    9. Scarletb*

      Literally just ignored a call bc I’m having lunch at my desk and had a mouthful of food. I’ll call them back when my bowl is empty.

    10. Beth*

      Heck, I’ve been known to reply hours late to Teams messages because I was so focused on my spreadsheets that I didn’t see anything else. (We don’t use status in Teams, since it’s not reliable enough to bother with.)

      On my WFH days, I’m even more likely to get lost in a long-term task, because the interruptions and distractions are fewer at home.

    11. JustaTech*

      I will now miss 100% of the calls to my phone number because they took away our phones but also decided not to pay for the Teams upgrade to receive calls from phone numbers into Teams.

      (The only real calls I ever got were “hey come down to the lab” or “hey, when do you want that instrument serviced?”)

  5. mango chiffon*

    I work a hybrid (2 days in office, 3 at home) and I am so much less productive in the office. People walk around and have conversations, people go get coffee from the kitchen or leave and go to a cafe, people chit chat at their desks or we goof off with each other. I get my real work done at home on the days I don’t have to come in. Heck, our most productive year as an organization was 2020 when we were fully remote! The workplace the LW is describing sounds ridiculous and more worried about butts in seats and surveillance than anything else.

    1. FricketyFrack*

      I worked fully at home for part of the pandemic and then we went to 2 days in the office and I completely agree. For me, I think a lot of it was that I was so much more comfortable at home – I’m always cold, so just not being in an ice cold office where I spent half the day trying to warm up made a huge difference in my productivity. Removing all the distractions caused by an office full of people helped a ton, too. I didn’t mind my office days, and they were helpful for stuff I genuinely couldn’t do from home, but in terms of sheer amount of work done, home definitely won.

      1. Lacey*

        Yup. Being able to be fully comfortable is a big productivity booster for me.

        Plus fewer distractions. And I never need to be in the office to do my work. I only go in every few months for meetings or the occasional training.

    2. Honey Badger just don't care*

      I go in once a week and it’s my least productive day. Too many distractions. It’s cold, I’m uncomfortable, the setup isn’t nearly as good as my home office setup, I’m still on calls all day long so the only time I get to actually get to see/talk to my coworkers in person is at lunch time which means crappy expensive food and more work! I don’t get a break all day long so I’m totally fried by the time I get home.

      1. Lizzie*

        I WFH 2x a week and am in the office the other 3 days. I feel the same way you do. its freezing in our office, the lights are really bright, and my setup is so much better at home. Plus i can take out the trash, go get the mail, run to the store at lunch, or even just sit on teh couch and play a game for 10 minutes, but in the office, ‘m in my cube, at my desk, the entire time.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      This is my experience as well. I figure that if it’s important that I come in for non-specific “collaboration” reasons, then they’re actively choosing for me to take the productivity hit while I “collaborate” with my colleagues in this way and are presumably fine with that.

    4. Lady Danbury*

      My only benefit of being in office is that I have a desk setup with 2 screens (which could easily be replicated at home, I just haven’t bothered). Other than that, being at home is so much more peaceful. Plus I’m not being interrupted or interrupting others when I head to the bathroom or kitchen.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I was at a presentation from a big professional services firm today and they said they have physical chairs for about 30% of the staff at any one time. In-office days are for collaborating, meetings, building relationships and gossiping. WFH days are for productivity and getting things done.

      We have a problem where we work that we’re hybrid, and we have about 50% of the office space we need to accommodate everyone, *but* we’re in small enough units that the managers want us all in on the same days, when we don’t have enough space for everyone. Like, if you have 100 seats and 200 people, but you want most of those people in the office in groups of 15-30, it’s all good. If you have 25 seats and 50 people and you want people in in groups of 15-20, we have a problem.

    6. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, I started my job over the pandemonium when it was fully remote, and after years of promises to return to the office, the org just accepted it was never going to actually happen (apart from an April Fools ‘joke’ informing us that it had WFH had been revoked).

      We do have a new person coming in above our department head, which seems to have inspired some panicked “oh no, we need to have policies for all this stuff that has been working for three years”, which is eye-roll worthy. Particularly the part where they admit that this was all because of one (1) incident where one (1) employee couldn’t be located by their manager for a couple of hours, but they had hopes that in the future we could “go back to managing based on the quality of the work.”


    7. Justin D*

      What’s funny is that my (open plan hoteling) office has “focus rooms” that are reserved for “heads down work” which is…all of my work. What work isn’t?

    8. JustaTech*

      I honestly prefer to go into the office (there are fewer fun distractions here than at my house), and I have work that has to be done on-site, and even I deeply resent the “butts in seats” surveillance mode.

      I often volunteer to be the on-site decoy for my coworkers who work better from home (or work as well from home and have hideous commutes) just because it annoys me so much that upper management can’t see all the good work they’re doing.

    9. An Australian In London*

      I lost all support for hybrid one job ago when even on the days we coordinated to all be in the office together… our meetings were 100% on Teams at our desks. Desks were hotseats and had to be booked so we seldom ever sat together. Even on the rare days we were co-located… all meetings on Teams anyway as meeting rooms were impossible to book.

      After the day where we all sat next to each other and held all meetings in Teams anyway I refused to come into the office any more. When pressed on this I said (truthfully) that I was high vulnerability and so was my partner and I was no longer willing to accept the risks of open plan floors where I was the only one in a mask… and all our meetings were on Teams anyway. My direct manager chose not to raise this as an HR issue when I said I was willing to raise it as an OH&S issue.

  6. Dawn*

    Those interviewers are assholes, that pretty much covers that.

    Attitudes have not shifted as much as I’d like them to have, but they have shifted; just the fact that job sites now have “remote” and “hybrid” categories at all attests to that.

  7. Purple Loves Snow*

    I bet the interviews minds would have been blown if the employee was … gasp … on another call therefore unable to answer the incoming call!

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      I feel like you’d get one of those dismissive non answers ‘well a dedicated employee would make it work’

  8. Susie goose*

    When I (consulting) interview potential colleagues and they ask me about working arrangements, I tell them ‘we’re a university, not a school’. They’re expected to design their workday to serve their clients and the type of work they need to do. That’s our culture – we’re an entrepreneurial business and people who need to be told exactly what to do each day are the wrong fit.

    The comments from this potential employer speak to their culture. It sounds like they will expect to dictate exactly what you’re doing all day. So the working from home comments are a proxy for their culture too. It’s not representative of all industries or employers.

    1. samwise*

      LOL. I can assure you, universities can be the worst offenders for even allowing hybrid or remote work.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        Dated a college prof for a couple of years and his school did not allow SICK DAYS. Anytime anyone came down with anything, the whole school got it because the sick person had to come in sick and spread it around. The two years I was with that guy was the most I’d been sick since my kids were in daycare. We split up and just like that, I went back to never having a cold again. I sincerely hope they changed their policies after 2020.

        1. Beth*

          Many universities don’t have sick days for teaching staff (or if they do, it’s only for professors, not adjuncts, teaching assistants, tutors, etc). Unofficially, you can often work something out–e.g. run a remote session that day, reschedule for another time (it’s difficult to manage this for large classes, though), or ask a peer to cover for you in exchange for covering one of their sessions later. On paper, though, often the official policy is that you teach every session at the scheduled time.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I wonder if that trickles down to student expectations. I once dropped a tango class when I found out I’d be dancing cheek-to-cheek with partners who would lose an entire letter grade for each class they missed due to illness. (This was while there were confirmed cases of swine flu on campus.)

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        This. Hell, some universities are just as bad about “butts in seats” when people are on campus! We’ve had people get in trouble for missing phone calls when they’re teaching their scheduled classes.
        (Upper admin is looking for excuses to reallocate offices and entire parking lots for other purposes while simultaneously requiring butts-in-seats…it’s very frustrating.)

      3. EmmaPeel*

        I left traditional higher ed because of this. We served our students exceptionally well considering the circumstances at my former traditional university, but as soon as the all-clear was sounded, we were expected to be in the office 5 days a week if we had any student contact at all. It did not help the disgruntlement when HR and other non-student facing folks were allowed to WFH however they wanted.

        I work for a fully online university (non-profit, not evil) now and weird how I don’t get migraines or have nightmares anymore, and how my kids say that I’m actually like, nice to be around? When I took my final interview, my now-supervisor said, “We expect you to be available during your work hours, not glued to your chair. Everybody needs to make a run to Target on a Tuesday once in a while–that’s what they make the Chat app for.” I thought I was going to cry.

    2. not nice, don't care*

      The university I work for is an educational organization more than an entrepreneurial business, but we are still expected to manage our workload to best serve our ‘clients’ – students, whether onsite or wfh. It becomes evident pretty fast when someone is failing to do that. No surveillance required.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        At the start of Covid On The Horizon, my niece had a college professor who said “I don’t care if it turns into a global epidemic, I expect Asses In Classes.”

        They were studying history of science, and the decade was the 1910-1920 time frame.

        Spanish Flu….


        1. linger*

          To be fair, that professor was guaranteed to have at least one ass in class the whole time.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      From the perspective of “Similarity to being a student at a…” this makes sense, but well, we’ve all heard how bananapants higher education can be for the staff.

  9. Clydesdales&Coconuts*

    I missed an unscheduled meeting yesterday with a client who showed up at my office unannounced- because icwas on the phone with another client… good thing I don’t work for that company, they wouldn’t deem me trustworthy! LOL!

  10. Problem!*

    Yikes on bikes. How many times have they gone by someone’s cube to see they’re not there? How many times have they had someone in office miss a call? How do they know the employee wasn’t on another work call and that’s why they didn’t answer?

    I steadfastly refuse to work for the Green Dot Police while working from home. Been there, done that, got the t shirt. My current team trusts we’re all adults and as long as no one’s missing deadlines or isn’t the person no one can get ahold of ever no one cares if you go walk your dog for an hour in the middle of the day.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It’s a good one! I had mild anxiety about it at the beginning (oh no, they’ll know I haven’t typed anything for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES!). It’s been three years without ever getting in trouble, though, so I’ve achieved a certain level of IDGAF.

  11. Mike D*

    Almost all of the talk about WFH vs RTO ignores the fact that we have a large number of new people entering the workforce every year and it’s hard (not impossible but very difficult) to learn to be a good enough employee to permanently WFH without having spent a few years in an office environment learning in-person from people much more senior to them (who themselves are almost always perfectly fine working from home themselves).

    The only way in my opinion for this to all work out is to go back to the way it was before: some companies are remote-first, and everybody else is office-first; maybe with a higher proportion of the first group than we had before the pandemic, but nowhere near the 100% that some people seem to think is the new normal.

    Companies trying to have it both ways make everybody miserable. The extroverts in the office aren’t happy unless everybody is. The RTO people aren’t happy with hybrid and/or missing out on opportunities. Be office-first or be remote-first and make it clear and let people sort accordingly.

    1. Mike D*

      ugh apparently RTO has ruined my pre-post editing skills. I meant the WFH people aren’t happy with hybrid… and I shouldn’t have used themselves twice. Probably wouldn’t have made these mistakes if I was posting this from my couch / the office / whichever one I’m not at right now!

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        I deeply miss having a hybrid schedule!

        I can’t do my entire job WFH, but having 3 days WFH and 2 in office was probably my ideal schedule for the year we were hybrid–I was able to focus entirely on the things that I needed to do in office on those 2 days when I was in office, and focus without interruptions on the stuff I could do from home while WFH. I was so much more efficient than now with no WFH. It was akin to knowing I had a deadline–if I needed to do X office task, I knew I had to do it on Tuesday or Friday. If I needed to work on Y computer task, it could wait until Mon/Wed/Thurday.

        I can see how if you’re doing the exact same kinds of tasks regardless of location, that could get confusing. But hybrid was so helpful for me.

      2. Random Bystander*

        Yeah, when we first were sent home, there were three groups–WFH (100%), stay-in-office (100%–generally this was just a handful of people who lived in areas where their internet wasn’t up to snuff for full-time WFH), and hybrid. The hybrid model was absolutely the worst of all worlds–you would no longer have your dedicated assigned desk, but would have to hot-desk any days you were in office, you did not get the internet stipend (a whopping $25/mo, which I guess was meant to offset if someone needed to move up a tier). Full time in office had their assigned desk, full time WFH got the internet stipend.

        Funnily enough, the daily quota went up after we all went WFH because “now you don’t have as many distractions” which pretty much tacitly admitted that they knew people were not at the desk/actively working accounts for significant chunks of time when we were all in office. Even meetings have gotten to be a lot shorter–instead of those hour-long ‘this could’ve been condensed into a 100 word email’ meetings that included “team building” exercises and so on. Now, I can’t even remember the last time that I had a meeting that went on as long as 15 minutes.

    2. ferrina*

      I’ve seen plenty of new grads do the WFH transition smoothly. The trick is to be extremely explicit and direct with expectations. There is no more learning by osmosis or “just see what I’m doing and do that”. There has to be a lot more clarity, which can be really good- it can help to realize that “oh, we need a real SOP for Process X, but Process Y has a lot more flexibility”.

      It’s not always easy, especially for managers that aren’t used to be explicit or aren’t used to examining institutional knowledge or assumptions. It requires a high degree of self-reflection (what is common knowledge vs. something I know because an expert told me, and now I need to tell the new person). My work has someone that has specific expertise in this area who designed a new onboarding experience after the company went remote. But it has totally paid off! Our new grads do really well, aren’t relying on word-of-mouth for their skills and information, and we have extremely low turn-over.

      1. Mike D*

        I’m a manager of software developers and I’ve been about 100 new college grads’ first managers by now, about half during COVID, and there are some that could handle it and were fine; some that wouldn’t have worked either way; but there’s definitely a couple dozen who are behind in their careers because they needed the osmosis, extra time, body language, or whatever else you think might be the secret sauce in learning your first couple years that is harder to get remotely.

        1. ferrina*

          There’s nothing that will work for 100% of people (there is no single environment that is right for everyone), but here’s what has helped:

          – Right out the gate, having a virtual walk through of the industry, key business practices, and organizational strategies. This can even include a walkthrough of basic softwares like our IM system and email (if someone isn’t already familiar).

          – A literal list of information tools and resources. Organized by topic and annotated of when you should review them (in your first week, first month, three months, a year, etc.)

          -Observations and shadowing. New hires are given a checklist of tasks that they will do in their day-to-day role. First, they need to watch someone else do that task. Next, someone else will watch them do that task. The screen-sharing is a replication of the in-person observations that naturally happen in an office environment. Plus we’ve caught some weird tech issues when the new hire shares their screen (the worst is the new grad who was given admin access to our main internal platform!)

          -Designated onboarding mentor. Each new hire has two onboarding mentors in addition to their manager that can show them the ropes. The mentor is responsible for setting up regular meeting times with the new hire, or the new hire can go to them with ad hoc questions. The mentor is also semi-responsible for making sure the new hire has the observation and shadowing opportunities mentioned above.

          -Breaking the meeting barrier. Often, remote workers can be nervous about interrupting their colleagues. Onboarding now includes casual virtual meetings with key people that the new person will interact with, so the new person is more comfortable reaching out with questions.

          -Safety netting. Our onboarding specialist gets to know every new hire and is extremely approachable (I think she’s a former therapist or something?). She has scheduled check-ins where she assesses how onboarding is going. She’ll add resources if needed, but she’s also just a great person for random questions.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            More generally, I accept that employees new to the workplace are a challenge with remote work. I do not accept that the only solution is to make everyone come into the office. That at best is lazy. More frequently it is BS to justify management doing what they want to do regardless.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          Yes but there are some people and groups of people helped by remote work. For instance, it was making a dent in the autistic unemployment rate which is a big issue. Not just remote work itself but the explicit systems created (not relying on body language etc) probably helped tremendously.

      2. HA2*

        I think that’s the case in general for managing remote workers, actually! It’s that much more important to be direct and explicit about expectations.

        Some WFH jobs still need strict hours and strict dress codes, others don’t. Some need constant availability and others don’t. You can no longer expect people to “just kind of pick up” on what others are doing.

        Which is good and bad sometimes. It’s good because it does naturally pull towards better management techniques (focusing on results instead of appearances, being direct about what’s needed); but also does require more work from management, it’s harder to just let things work out (i.e. if a senior employee needs to mentor a junior employee, that won’t just happen naturally from the two of them sitting next to each other, they both need to be told about the arrangement and possibly some regular checkins scheduled, things like that.)

      3. Caramel & Cheddar*

        This precisely. Work from home exposed a lot of bad managers in a variety of ways: people who can only manage via the “bums in seats” model, people who don’t know how to offer feedback and guidance, people who don’t know how to set expectations or reasonable workloads, people who don’t do any kind of onboarding/orientation/training, etc. All those things are bad in the office too!

        Working from home isn’t for everyone, obviously, but it’s hard to tell if it’s bad for the employee if you’re not already a stellar manager. If your workplace is haphazard and unclear and lacks processes, it’s probably not WFH that’s your issue.

      4. Also-ADHD*

        Learning by osmosis has flaws even in office, & is disabling and exacerbates discrimination in many places anyway. Should follow these practices in every job.

      5. allathian*

        Yes, this. Remote work requires more explicit processes because you have so few opportunities to learn by osmosis. But this is true of anyone who switches jobs, not just new grads. Different office cultures and all that.

      6. Lacey*

        Yes. I’ve had multiple employers who expect to just have newbies start working and kinda pick it up as they go along. Or not and then they’re let go.

        That’s not an option with WFH. Which, in my opinion, is GOOD.

        Those people were BAD at managing their employees/companies.
        There were a lot of problems at those places because they couldn’t communicate effectively.
        And being in the office didn’t fix that, it just masked it for a little longer.

      7. kiki*

        Yes! What was learned by osmosis before now has to be conveyed more explicitly and directly with proper training and documentation. The issue is that a lot of leaders aren’t accounting for that or don’t have anyone with the time or bandwidth to prepare those materials.

        I think this ties into a wider lack of investment in training across businesses more broadly. My parents frequently talk about the amount of training they had at their first job– they were in a six month rotational training program. Six months! At my first job I was given a list of links to random internal docs look over and then was expected to start working independently by week two. There’s this expectation that people new to the workplace will have learned a ton of skills and norms somewhere before their first job, and sometimes even before their first internship. And in some ways universities and schools have tried to adapt to that, but every business is different! The expectation that a college will prepare new employees perfectly for your specific company and workplace is kind of bananas.

    3. samwise*

      Our office has new hires in office every day for their first six months. Then they can go hybrid (3 in office, 2 WFH).

    4. Beth*

      People always seem to respond to the idea of remote work as the new norm by talking about how it’s hard for employees who are new to the workforce to learn in remote workplaces, and I just don’t think that’s a serious problem. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve never worked in an in-person office before, you’re going to have a learning curve for your first in-person office job! But the same is true for your first fully remote job. I had several years of in-office experience when I got my first remote job, and I found that being a good remote employee was not a repeat of being a good in-office employee; it’s a second, separate set of norms that I had to re-learn. I needed skills that I hadn’t built in office, and I had to forget some norms that I’d internalized from in-office work.

      I agree that teams should be either office-first or remote-first, and that it should be clear to new hires. But I think remote work really is the new norm for a lot of industries, and a lot of roles even in industries where it isn’t 100% the norm. And I think that’s fine, even for people new to the workforce! The deciding factor on whether a team is in-office or remote should be whether there’s a business need to be in-office, not a fear that new employees will somehow not be able to learn. Any company that bothers to train or manage its employees will be supporting them in learning how to be a good employee per that company’s standards.

      1. Mike D*

        I think you are picturing “learning how to work well in an office” and “learning how to work well remotely” as parallel tracks; whereas I’m viewing the first as a prerequisite to the second, because remotely there’s things you might never really pick up, but I understand opinions differ on this topic.

        1. Beth*

          You’re right that I’m thinking of them as different tracks. There are definitely facets of in-office work that you might never pick up on if your entire career is remote. But you wouldn’t be missing a core skill–you just wouldn’t need them! I can’t think of any specific professional skills that I learned in-office, need in my now-remote work, and am seeing my colleagues who have only worked remotely struggle with.

          It sounds like you may be thinking of in-office work as the ‘real professional’ environment and remote work as the ‘perk for established professionals’ environment. And I think that was true not so long ago. But it doesn’t reflect the current world. Nowadays, some people will have entirely in-office careers, some people will have entirely remote careers, and many people will work in both environments at some point. Both are normal professional environments at any career stage.

          1. Justin D*

            Almost everything I “learned” in person was bullshit, like how to gossip and how to not piss people off who sit nearby, stuff like that. No actual work.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I work with new grads and I think there’s a proper issue here, but the answer is to be much more deliberate and thoughtful about your training and development of new graduates rather than leaving it to chance. You probably do need more active mentoring, clear opportunities to ask questions, debriefs, explanations — stuff that worked haphazardly when people were sat in a team and you could ask random questions and overhear stuff needs more attention and deliberation if you’re hybrid or remote. I think that’s actually a good thing!

        I personally love hybrid — I work 4 days a week, typically a day at home, two days in work, a day at home, a day off. I get a solid day of focus and confidential one-to-ones at the beginning and end of the week. I get social interaction, face-to-face meetings and someone else cooking a pretty decent veg lunch for me on two days a week. I wouldn’t like either full-time WFH or in-office nearly as much.

      3. Justin D*

        Its somewhat negative/cynical of me but the idea that employers care THAT much about new hires and fresh grads is sort of laughable. If they thought remote work was a good idea or better for business, they would demand that everyone do it and they’d be complaining in Business Insider that Zoomers just can’t get with the program. “This isn’t school! Be resourceful and manage your time at home like an adult!”

        1. JTP*

          Yeah, we’ve seen HOW MANY articles about how employers are putting less and less time (if any at all, even) into training new employees? They don’t require RTO because they care about training recent graduates new to the work world.

      4. WhereTheWindBlows*

        Our upper management cites new hires as a reason to be in the office more so they can learn and get up to speed but then refuses to hire replacements for a lot of US positions in the US and is instead only hiring in lower cost countries where they have to work remotely with their team. I honestly think there is a lot of value in working in person with new hires in my company but it’s not impossible to do similar things remotely/hybrid. Management loses credibility in my eyes when they have conflicting messaging like this.

    5. HA2*

      To be honest, if that was the complaint of the OP’s interviewers, maybe it would make sense! I’ve heard that before. I don’t know if it’s TRUE or if onboarding new employees just has to be done differently when going remote, but it could make sense.

      …but that’s not what they said. We don’t have to give them the benefit of the doubt and say “maybe there’s a good argument for RTO that they didn’t make” instead of engaging with the nonsense argument they actually did make.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Yes. This is where I was originally expecting this letter to go. The Green Dot Police are ridiculous, though (as a manager) I had to push back on MY superiors and remind them that being in office doesn’t mean you respond to an email right away or are immediately at your desk for an impromptu phone call (because, for example, you might be at an IN PERSON meeting!)

        I do agree with Mike D, to an extent. I’ll also add: “it’s hard (not impossible but very difficult) to learn to be a good enough employee to permanently WFH without having spent a few years in an office environment learning in-person from people much more senior to them” – only works if those more senior people are also regularly and reliably present in the office. I’ll also agree that it IS possible but you need to be MUCH more intentional about how you handle procedures, training, etc.

        In addition, there are some roles/industries where it is just never going to work on more than a hybrid basis. For example, if you’re HR for a blue collar industry, even if your work CAN be done fully remotely, there may be an expectation that an employee can drop by in person to ask questions, talk about benefits, etc. So, these are all considerations to make when you think about, “Well, MY role could be fully remote” – I mean, yes, perhaps based on tasks alone, but there may be other considerations in play.

        Again, none of this is absolute, just things to think about – I also feel strongly that flexibility should be championed and encouraged wherever possible.

        1. JillyKitty*

          BRB, dreaming of an office environment where “an employee can drop by in person to ask questions, talk about benefits, etc.” Every HR question I’ve had for the last 10 years my boss or I have had to research on the HR KB or call and talk with an offshore rep who cannot answer questions but will open a ticket for someone else to research the question and email me with an answer.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Ugh, that’s terrible! Maybe it is because I am (State) government (I realize the Feds are different here and have no choice!) that this would be considered terrible in nearly every agency I’ve worked at!

            I do think there is a happy medium – being unavailable in person but available by phone/email (DIRECTLY, and 1:1) is definitely workable for an HR model. Especially if you need assistance with leaves benefits.

            1. JTP*

              I’m in a US-based company with employees nationwide, and a US-based HR team, and I still can’t “drop by” or directly phone/email HR staff. I have to “submit a case” through WorkDay and get a response several days later.

    6. Also-ADHD*

      Lots of people prefer hybrid, and lots of hybrid workplaces are doing great, including with new hires. The best thing to do is set up an intentional structure (and not every team/department has to be the same either) and clear goals. You can train new folks remote. New hires can do remote or hybrid work. Not all, sure, but I don’t think there’s any proof “years in office” is actually needed to become a good worker. Your ideas seem very extreme to me. I’m fully remote but take on opportunities to go to offsites or visit offices sometimes (if it makes sense for relationship building or understanding work across other parts of the business). My company has work that must be done in person, people who are hybrid and a split their time, and fully remote teams. There are great teams and workers across models, and some functions prefer hybrid.

      1. Justin D*

        Yeah the idea that young people, ostensibly well versed in online communication, online learning, asynchronous work, etc, can’t get up to speed at a remote job is kind of silly.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Of course – Also-ADHD is right. It’s just, as noted upthread, it has to be very intentional and structured and while this is probably a best practice REGARDLESS, for people (I am lumping Gen X and elder millennials in here as well) who have not worked or trained under this model now need to come up with these intentional systems, and it IS work. Building the plane while flying it. My staff came up with some really great systems on the fly using group teams chats, which, actually, were super useful even when we WERE in office because it was easier to have a discrete conversation given our open cube farm environment. They essentially used it as their (mostly work related) water cooler and it really built a great camaraderie with the team. They were also really flexible with making sure that if they as supervisor weren’t on site, their employees could go to any supervisor who WAS on site with general questions if it was easier to do something hands-on. (Including me, who was a couple levels above.) Honestly, the biggest issue we had was reception who, for some reason, seemed to think that if someone was working from home they weren’t available by phone and/or if they did transfer a call to them and they didn’t answer, they couldn’t just … take a message, just like in beforetimes.

    7. Mike D*

      Bear in mind that we’ve had a non-trivial number of remote-first companies in software development for a long time and for all of that time they have pretty much never been willing to hire people without previous employment experience (if any have, I haven’t seen it).

      That might all be a coincidence! Or it might be that I’ve said something true and that it’s not just incompetent managers who can’t ramp up people remotely to blame.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I wonder, too, if it’s because remote is the gold standard so they haven’t HAD to, because they’ve had plenty of applicants who have that experience already?

        (I have no idea if that’s the case, just speculating!)

  12. ThursdaysGeek*

    Our company had to scramble, like so many, when Covid happened. But we’re also a multi-state company with team members in different locations from their bosses at times. So after about 6 months of remote work, our management said, “huh, this seems to work fine. Let’s make a policy about remote work, so when all this is over, we have plans.”

    I’m now working in an office that is less than half full (they own the building), still with co-workers in multiple states, some I’ve never met. And it all works, because we have competent management and bosses who look at our work output. We’re allowed remote (with adequate internet speeds, which I don’t have), hybrid, or in office, providing it works for the specific job. It all works just fine.

    1. ferrina*

      Me too! My company has office spaces in various cities, but plenty of full-time remote employees as well. I regularly work with people from the other side of the country or even other countries. It’s delightful- I get a broader range of people and expertise areas that I can easily call on, rather than only the people in my home office. We have no plans to ever RTO- we have extremely low turnover because in our high-stress industry, remote work has provided better work-life balance without any kind of hit to productivity (if anything, people are more productive!)

  13. girlie_pop*

    My last company was very much like this. They let us WFH a couple of days a week, but anytime a perceived issue cropped up, they would threaten to take it away from everyone. They would talk about how important it is to be in-person for the “culture” and “collaboration”, and in the meantime, they were losing so many people so quickly that they resorted to hiring people out of state who are – wait for it – 100% remote. Guess those people were somehow magically able to collaborate with their coworkers without being in the office!

    As far as I know, they’re still really struggling to retain staff. The WFH policy was really just a symptom of their distrust of employees and their feeling that we should have all been grateful to have a job there and accept whatever bad treatment they wanted to give us.

  14. Bunny Girl*

    My previous job was like this. It was very “butts in seats” with no reason to be. They were an awful company all around, and that job cost me my health, but their attitude about remote work should have been their first warning sign.

    So yeah if anyone comes across this attitude, run.

    1. RunShaker*

      Same with me. Pre-pandemic, the head of department used to walk around after 6pm asking coworker and I where was everybody? I told him rest of my coworkers had already worked their scheduled hours and went home. He was like well no one should be leaving when you all are complaining about the work load and he was totally a butts in the seat manager. (I worked a later schedule so reason why I was still working.) My coworker and I looked at him in disbelief. He didn’t say anymore and continued on. This behavior and other management issues was a big complaint. He never took the feedback. We did go remote due to Covid and luckily, we had a couple of managers that ran the day to day which helped keep him off our backs. I’m so glad I’m no longer working for him.

    2. Mynona*

      My employer very reluctantly allows hybrid (max 2 days/week WFH) with a lot of restrictions. Managers have the authority to reject WFH requests based on personal preference, even for reports whose work is remote compatible. My employer is a non-profit with c.100 staff, about half of whom are essential on-site and half are office admin. The policy comes directly from the Deputy Director, who is a WFH skeptic. I think that you’re more likely to encounter this attitude in employers like mine that are small enough where one out-of-touch jerk sets the policy for the whole company.

  15. Dittany*

    I would be so weirded out if all my coworkers notified the group chat every time they took a bathroom break.

    1. Corrigan*

      If I worked for a company that demanded this, I would so go malicious compliance:

      – Letting dogs outside
      – Dog barking, gotta let them back in.
      – Bathroom…should be 5 minutes. Maybe 10… I’ll just let you know when I’m back.
      – Going to the bathroom again, may also fill up my water bottle when I’m down there, I’ll keep you posted.
      – Back with a water bottle and a granola bar
      – Got chocolate on my hands, gotta go wash them, brb!

      1. juliebulie*

        Don’t you need to check for mail? And take out the trash? And take it back in? Sometimes those are the high points of my day.

        1. WellRed*

          For fun, I’ve literally announced I’m going to bring the barrels in before the dog walkers start dropping in the poop bags.

      2. Rex Libris*

        I’d be really tempted to message everyone about my bathroom trips… in detail. Expected activities, estimates of time involved, etc.

    2. Art3mis*

      We have to, but we’re also manning a phone line, so as much as it annoys me, it makes sense in our case.

      1. Lana Kane*

        When I worked in medical scheduling, the team had to put in a “brb” in chat to let others know they would be away from phones. The call volume was incredibly heavy and if one of your teammates realized you weren’t taking calls for more than a couple of minutes, they themselves would rat you out immediately!

    3. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      They’d have a heck of a time on days when my IBS-D flared up.

      9:02am – BRB, bathroom
      9:15am – sorry, back!
      9:27am – stomach again, back in a bit
      9:45am – back, took a detour to the kitchen for Imodium.
      9:53am – oh no
      10:27am – sorry, didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. Laundry in progress. I’ll be joining the teams meeting without video.

    4. lilsheba*

      Yeah there is no way in hell I am ever going to tell my co workers that I’m going to the bathroom. It’s none of their business and that is private, and I am going to do it every time I need to.

    5. Honey Badger just don't care*

      You just know that there is someone on that chat who is making a spreadsheet and tracking how many times each person goes to the bathroom for how long and what length of lunch break they take.

  16. RVA Cat*

    Why do I imagine this interviewer’s ancestor locking the exit doors at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory?

  17. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    This makes me grateful for my hybrid employer. On WFH days, we might mention to our team members on Slack that we’re stepping away to make coffee. Or we might not. Ultimately, all that matters is we respond to messages (and we can take more than a couple minutes to do so!) and meet our deadlines.

    During the pandemic, when we were all WFH, our business grew. The proof we were working was pretty darn indisputable–hence our hybrid model now.

  18. Managed Chaos*

    Not to mention, the number of times a co-worker calls me when I’m on the phone with another co-worker is significant. (And it’s not a problem – people are in their own space and don’t monitor who someone is speaking with.) For this to be a thing, do you notify for bathroom breaks, refilling your water bottle, eating lunch, every phone call, etc? Of course not – they’re being absurd.

    1. HonorBox*

      I told a colleague the other day that someone who is calling them with something “urgent” (quotes because it means urgent to the caller, not necessarily to the colleague) doesn’t have any idea what is happening for you at that very moment.

  19. Justin*

    My last job, where I worked when lock down started, was like this.

    My current job is very flexible, just don’t disappear for hours without notice.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. I have my lunch hour marked on my calendar, as well as any absences during the day that are longer than 30 minutes. But my job isn’t coverage-based, so there’s no requirement to be constantly available even during working hours.

  20. juliebulie*

    I remember a boss who was telling me that I might lose my work-from-home privileges if I didn’t knuckle under to some BS or other (and trust me, whatever it was, it was BS). I said, “Well that will drastically lower the bar on what I consider for a new job.” She seemed shocked. But boy howdy that shut her the hell up. She was more respectful after that.

    That was pre-Covid. I’m a little surprised that WFH is still being weaponized, even after Covid.

    1. Ava*

      It sure is. My manager is cracking down on WFH, in spite of working from home herself very often, but actually mentioned while rolling out her plan for the crackdown that she hopes nobody is thinking of leaving over it! Nice try. The flexibility previously offered was helpful in making my life work in so many ways. Saying “just use PTO” (when you have an accident on the way to work or stomach troubles or COVID) is the new “let them eat cake.” I would rather give up life insurance or the EAP than job flexibility.

  21. Twill*

    I am in a industry (health insurance/claims) that integrates very well into remote work. Prior to the pandemic, more and more companies were offering both flex time and the possibility of remote work as incentives. When the pandemic hit, at the company I was at (one of the big name insurers), we all simply packed up our computers and took them home. I have since moved to a fully remote position for an awesome company who’s headquarters is located in the Pacific NW. I am in South Texas. I have coworkers all over the US. Our company does an amazing job of creating a real sense of team. I have been continuously impressed by their support and I am very grateful. As someone who did the 9to5 cubicle life for many, many years – I cannot express how much working from home has improved the quality of my life. As far as these statements that some CEO/management has made in the press and on social media, about concerns their remote employees are actually working – I can only address that based on the type of work I do. The metrics of my work are pretty clear. They know I am working because my work is getting done!

    1. Art3mis*

      I worked in a similar role when the pandemic hit. The December prior they told us nope, can’t WFH even if the weather is bad. Even though that was literally a selling point for the job, they just refused to honor it. And then March rolls around and they are scrambling to find laptops for everyone. Now the company is mostly remote and if you really want to come in to the office you can.

    2. Lana Kane*

      My team at the time Covid hit had just gone hybrid as part of a morale initiative (also in healthcare). So we were very well positioned when we had to go remote, everyone already had their workstations and phones set up at home. It was stressful enough managing a team and all these new workflows that we had to pull out of thin air – if we hadn’t had people at home ready to work and take patient calls, it would have been a disaster.

    3. allathian*

      My job is similar, and I’m glad that I work for an organization where employees are trusted to do their work without constant supervision or butts in seats until they prove otherwise.

  22. Educator*

    Honestly, the only people still complaining about remote work seem to be a) managers who don’t know how to manage b) extroverts who need a non-work social outlet c) people who still have not figured out how to use basic collaboration technology d) people with homes not conducive to work and e) people with a financial stake in downtowns and office space. Who wins? All the rest of us. Our time, our productivity, our humanity. Anyone with a disability or difference that is easier to accommodate in their own space. The planet, since commuting is so polluting in car-based cities. So can those people still complaining please just, respectively a) learn how to actually evaluate an employee’s work b) find other social outlets or ways to be social online c) learn the tools because they are not going away d) join a coworking space or go to the library and e) find a way to financially pivot? I am so over the anti-work-from-home people. It changed. It works really well for a lot of people in a lot of jobs. Find a way forward.

    1. hbc*

      I find that people tell on themselves when they’re seeing any delay as an indication that you’re slacking at home. They know their “WFH” is doing as little as they can get away with, which means stopping the [video game/floor installation/TV binge] only to answer the phone in two rings and absolutely nothing else work-related. If you delay answering the phone, they assume you’re doing even less than them.

    2. Head sheep counter*

      What about the implied classism of WFH? The economic splits in our society are real and prevalent. WFH can help but it also can cause further harm. The folk who are all WFH is good for the greater all… have a narrow view of the greater all. Your list alone should cause a meaningful conversation:
      b) extroverts – given the loneliness problem we are facing as a community at large… this… is a real thing
      d) homes not conducive… that’s a mighty broad band that covers a range of class issues, abuse issues and privilege issues (communities without broadband exist and aren’t actually unicorns, people living in spaces too small are a big and growing issue… to say nothing of the cost of housing).

      I wish the WFH diehards would realize they are in a privileged bubble and the need for varied approaches is valid and not just the “man” oppressing the precious.

      1. ragazza*

        You bring up some good points, but the corporate world has historically been designed for extroverts. Introverts are finally gaining ground. I for one found it incredibly draining to be around people for 8+ hours every day and I’m glad there are more options. Plus, let’s talk about the classism of assuming everyone has access to a car to drive to offices that are often not easily accessible by public transport, or that people can afford to move to a new location to work in a nearby office.

        If anything, introverts and those who appreciate more flexibility are the ones who have been fighting for “varied approaches.”

        1. Justin D*

          Yeah I feel like introversion is making huge headways, the world doesn’t just revolve around constant in person interaction anymore.

      2. UKDancer*

        Homes not being conducive is a really big one. I’m in London which is extremely expensive and we have a lot of early career people who live in house shares / flat shares and have very limited space. All of our new starters wanted to be in more than the required 2 days per week because in the office they have a comfortable workspace with an ergonomic chair and we provide electricity and heating and tea and coffee.

        I’ve also seen more people wanting to be in the office in winter because heating is expensive at the moment and electricity bills have shot up. I’ve done the maths and usually my commute is cheaper than the cost of heating and lighting my flat. Rail and tube fares have been frozen and gone up more slowly than other bills.

        1. Head sheep counter*

          It can be easy to imagine that conductive is simply a matter of prioritization. But its really a whole host of issues. Cost, availability of space, availability of broadband, safety… its… an issue. And its a shame how its blithely passed over.

        2. Educator*

          Interesting–the effect has been the opposite in a noteworthy number of communities in the US. Many companies had offices in places like San Fransisco, where no one can really afford to live on a single salary, and WFH gave more people access to jobs in particular sectors because they could do them from lower cost of living areas. I work with a lot of early career people, especially on the IT side of my work, who are able to afford their lives specifically because they don’t have to scramble to share apartments in impossibly expensive urban areas.

          And we are very lucky that a recent infrastructure bill is actively expanding internet access to rural areas!

          1. Head sheep counter*

            There are significant broadband deserts in the states (see impoverished areas in particular… there’s interesting data available on Oakland Ca for example).

            There are significant housing constraints in many major areas.

            While some rural communities have benefited from remote work, others have had their housing become inaccessible to the people who live there because of transplants.

            I’m not opposed to remote work… I’m opposed to the idea that it needs to be expanded even more. It should meet a companies needs and business model so that it can hopefully be well supported and executed.

      3. Educator*

        I don’t think it is reasonable to expect the format of peoples’ employment to solve the massive challenges of wealth distribution or mental health and safety. Those are society-wide issues that need to be tackled through social programming and legislation.

        There are some high paying jobs that need to be done in person (doctors, engineers) and some lower-paying jobs that can be done remotely (call centers, administrative support). In a lot of ways, this is a trend that transcends class and gives people options.

        1. Head sheep counter*

          Insisting on a format that works for the minority at the expense to of the majority furthers the challenges of wealth distribution, mental health and safety. I was responding to your comment “So can those people still complaining please just, respectively a) learn how to actually evaluate an employee’s work b) find other social outlets or ways to be social online c) learn the tools because they are not going away d) join a coworking space or go to the library and e) find a way to financially pivot? I am so over the anti-work-from-home people. It changed. It works really well for a lot of people in a lot of jobs. Find a way forward.”

    3. Also-ADHD*

      You left out some people (the crabs in a bucket kind) with jobs they can’t do remotely and some retired Boomers I know who want their kids to have the same misery at work they did.

    4. get a grip*

      I found the people who write these kind of rants to be so wildly out of touch with the reality. You know who isn’t part of your “rest of us”, reclaiming their humanity? All the people who cannot work from home because their jobs are tied up in direct services or transfer of goods, often working for the people who generally can work from home. From your waiter to your librarian to the person bringing your DoorDash order, crossing guards for school children, plumbers you’re letting in between meetings and doctors you’re visiting in your flexible schedule. Factory and farm workers and freight drivers and a whole host of other people in our labor force that don’t exist in the workplace advice column universe but do exist in all classes, in all kinds of communities, keeping the world working. Economies work because we live and move in relation to each other; that’s the only way that we survive, a pandemic doesn’t change that even if it changes the latest trends for computer-based work in the Global North.

      I say this as someone who believes that most jobs that can be performed from home should be, if not for the emissions benefits alone. But I would never fix my face to say something this out of touch and it’s not even close to the first time I’ve read a short manifesto like this about not getting to VPN in. “Find a way to financially pivot”? Really?

      I get it, there are many victories for those who can do it and increase some aspect of the quality of their life. But the benefits for working parents or disabled people don’t change the fact that WFH is largely a privilege that exists on the backs of people who have to work in person and aren’t writing thinkpieces about having to RTO. Good lord, grow up.

      1. Educator*

        This is not really the kind of commenting community where personal insults are appropriate–they don’t contribute to the dialogue.

        I was a front-line worker keeping schools open safely in the darkest days of the pandemic. I have lived the fact that some jobs cannot be done remotely firsthand at personal risk. I was absolutely one of those people you mention who had to work in person, and I thought that serving my community was more important than my safety or convenience.

        I also, or maybe resultantly, believe, as an executive who now oversees a remote team, that those who can work from home should not be constrained by outdated models of what office work is supposed to look like.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        Not everyone CAN WFH in their function, but how does it “exist on the backs” of people “who have to work in person”? Like how is my working from home hurting an ER nurse, plumber, or mechanic who fundamentally had to do physical work in person? They face less traffic on their commute, but I can’t think of a fundamental way they’re impacted that’s harmful.

        (There are business losers and winners, I know, with any societal behavior change. Commercial real estate owners are harmed, I guess, but that’s not about frontline workers. I do feel for small business owners that opened up on the basis of office habits, but that’s not a reason to make people continue those habits indefinitely, as that’s not how we’d address any other consumer habit changes. I’m all for assisting them with relocation etc. If useful to a new normal, just like I was all for the small businesseses being helped during Covid even though greedy corporations stole too much of the aid.)

      3. Ozzie Gal*

        I’m in Australia. When Covid hit us in early March 2020 I went from full-time in the office on the Monday to being given a laptop and peripherals on the Tuesday, setting my office space up Tuesday evening, and logging in remotely on the Wednesday for my first WFH day. In the four years since, I’ve done fully remote, hybrid, and back to fully remote unless my team is required in the office. It’s worth noting that the office space has been downsized and there’s now literally not enough seats to sit backsides on in order to have us all in the office at the same time. The office, pre-Covid, was very much a butts-on-seats model, and only management were ever trusted with WFH.
        My husband, on the other hand, works in a small automotive repair business – there’s just him and the boss at the workshoop. Working from home for him is impossible and, apart from those first few weeks in 2020 when we were all still working out how bad things were, he’s been in “the office” every day.
        I think it’s a “horses for courses” thing – some jobs can be done remotely and some can’t, it’s just how things are. Any time a news article comes up here about RTO vs WFH, there’s always the rusted-on “get back in the office and back to work, you lazy slackers” mentalities commenting, along with “if your work can be done from home, it can be offshored..”. Personally? My name/username/userid is attached to literally every piece of work I touch, so it’s extremely easy to track my work and productivity. My bosses are happy and there’s no negative comments in my one-on-one’s or performance reviews. It’s also far easier for me to coordinate appointments and so on from home, and I can use my lunch break plus a little extra to see (for example) the doctor, go to a vet appointment with my dogs, have a tradesman around and so on. Pre-covid, I would have needed to ask for at least half a day of leave, if not a full day, to accommodate such, as my commute time to and from the office also needed to be taken into account.

  23. Alan*

    I used to have a coworker who would indeed announce bathroom breaks. It was annoying. You’re disturbing my workflow to tell me that you will be unavailable for a few minutes? TMI and honestly, no one cares. If you need to know when your coworkers are in the bathroom, you either have a crappy work ethic or not nearly enough work to do.

    1. ragazza*

      I honestly don’t want to know when people go to the bathroom! I’d rather my mind not go there unnecessarily.

    2. pally*

      Yeah, I have someone who has to provide a rundown of everything she’s doing or where she’s going. Even if she’s stepping out for a few minutes. Her job isn’t such that folks are needing her immediately.

      Doing this is not helpful-for anyone. She would beg to differ.

    3. Bast*

      Or the individual once worked in an office where stepping away for 2 minutes was a cardinal sin that resulted in a write up/scolding etc and think that announcing their every move is normal and expected. There’s a kind way to let them know that in your office that isn’t necessary without assuming they either have a bad work ethic or not enough work.

  24. HonorBox*

    My goodness. What if that person who was unable to answer an unscheduled call was … God forbid … on another business-related call? Never mind that it is silly and completely asinine to have to announce a bathroom break. I think this shines a light on why we need to look at interviews as a two-way street. That part of the conversation told you enough about them to know that it would likely be a place that didn’t trust people generally.

  25. MrsPookie*

    I have been remote for my position since I began to work with my company.
    We dont even have a physical office!
    My manager still requires us to notify our ENTIRE team via teams when we go on a break (15 min) or lunch- even thought we have a schedule. Its demeaning and infantilizing as heck to do so after almost 30 years in the workforce AND this is not an entry level job.
    Trust your employees- if they arent doing work- you’ll be able to tell for sure. (of course if you cant tell, then you need better processes to know what employees are working on.)
    One of the many reasons I am looking to move on after 4 years here.

  26. Falling Diphthong*

    “Even if you’re just stepping away for a quick bathroom break , of course you’d need to communicate that with all staff first.”

    This is quite the picture of their cube farm.

  27. Prorata*

    A couple of observations on remote work:

    1. 2020 Oldco shifted to mostly remote work for office staff….but expected remote workers to answer calls on second ring, be on camera all day, etc. Ultimately, WFH was reduced to insignificance.

    2. Currentco recently revoked routine work from home for most employees – expectation is for office staff to be in office 5 day/week. Announced reasons – greater collaboration, productivity, etc. Too soon to see effects, but I expect several people on my team to depart because routine WFH was revoked.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      How many people at Oldco started looking for new jobs when those rules were announced?

      1. Prorata*

        Two of five left more-or-less immediately, because of WFH rules, and leadership generally being peawits.

    2. justanobody*

      I’m tired of hearing ‘greater collaboration’ as an excuse to end WFH. We have 6 offices spread across the mid-Atlantic. Of the 45 people I work with, only 10 of them have desks in the same office I do. The rest I communicate with via zoom and email. Yet I have to be in the office 4 days a week.

      1. Lana Kane*

        We went hybrid a few months prior to Covid, and then fully remote. When things settled down, my manager wanted to return to hybrid work for “collaboration”. I had to remind her that our team took calls and worked independently most of the day and were already collaborating on Teams. Fortunately, she listened and kept the team remote. It was just us supervisors who had to come in once a week for necessary office work (which was fine with me).

  28. Ground Control*

    My boss and coworkers would be livid if I sent them a message every time I left my computer for 5 minutes to go to the bathroom or get a snack while I’m working from home. I’ll let people know if I’m going to be away for more than an hour, otherwise they don’t care (and honestly probably don’t even notice). I’m so much more efficient at home, even with AaM breaks!

    1. WellRed*

      I get so annoyed when my coworkers announce they are rebooting. We didn’t do that in office, why do I need to know now?

      1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        That makes sense to me- it indicates “having tech issues, might be back in a moment or might vanish randomly for a while if it goes wrong”

        1. allathian*

          Yes. I don’t announce this to the whole team but I’ll tell my manager and close coworker who has the same job description as I do if I’m having technical difficulties. I do have Teams on my work phone, so if I have to stop working for the day, I’ll tell them that way.

  29. ForestHag*

    They should come see how people operate at my university. People here don’t answer the phone even when they are in office, sitting right next to the ringing phone – they just stare at it. :D Obviously not everyone does that, but it’s extremely common at my university for people to just not answer the phone, and it always has been – for decades, not just the pandemic era. As to why they do that – who knows. I know that I don’t answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number (as we have MS Teams this is very easy to do), but I think a lot of the depts have automated response systems set up and try to direct callers to self-service solutions as much as possible. We have also implemented some chatbots here to take the load off student-facing staff because so many of the calls they get are very routine stuff that can be handled with a chatbot or a website.

    There are some managers here that grumble about WFH, but when I am on campus, I see their employees doing things like watching Youtube all day or even bringing in their gaming consoles. Those managers are quick to blame WFH as the problem for their employees’ performances, but they don’t seem to be that much better (if at all) when they are in the office.

    1. anon for this*

      I don’t answer my phone when I’m at the office because it is way too easy to be caught in a fruitless conversation (or “conversation”) and it is a waste of my time.

      I route my voicemail straight to email, where I can determine if it needs a response at all, if I can address the question quickly via email (most of time), if the caller is asking about policies and procedures I can include links (a lot of the time) in an email or redirect the caller and include a directory link, if the answer is complex I can lay it out clearly with bullets and bolded headers and thus be clearer than in any phone call (and the caller now has a clear and accurate guide to return to), or, once in a very great while, if I should return the call.

      And also, I can avoid callers like the horrible dad who ranted for upwards of 20 minutes and made me understand why his daughter was the mess she was.

  30. MAOM7*

    Aren’t you glad you found out what they were before the end of the interview? What a blessing!

  31. A Manager for Now*

    In evidently the reverse of most organizations, mine went to entirely WFH for our corporate team. So much so that they closed the office building and we travel as needed to be at our sites, suppliers, or customers when required.

    Production facility support staff in this team needs to be on site, but this is in line with the job requirements. I held one of those roles through all of 2020 and did not get WFH while the rest of the world “shut down” which was quite a weird experience.

    It’s fine? I have gone through a transition to a new team under this WFH structure and will say it is harder to get the casual nuances of teams and job functions without being with people as they do the job, but I do have a lot of calls with my team and we work very collaboratively. I do kind of miss that social outlet, but the rewards are enough that I’m very happy to be here.

    1. Lady Danbury*

      My current company is made up of about 70% industrial staff who cannot wfh and 30% support functions/management who mostly could wfh (some of the support functions can’t). Since there are already issues with an us vs them mentality of the staff vs management, they’ve taken the approach that no roles are remote or hybrid. However, there’s flexibility for people to wfh on an ad hoc basis, as long as their manager is kept in the loop.

      1. A Manager for Now*

        This is exactly how the industrial/production facilities handle it. You can WFH if needed (furniture delivery, short-term childcare issue, etc.) but generally if you’re assigned to a facility in a management/support function role, you are still expected to be on site because in part the job does sort of require it often enough and in part because the optics are really hard with admin/support staff vs floor staff.

        The corporate roles where we are less visible (would be going into a business park office space) is where they went to WFH. It definitely opened up recruiting a lot!

  32. Marion*

    If I didn’t trust someone enough to get the work done they are hired to do, whether they are at home or in the office… I would not hire this person. Why do these bosses WANT to work with people they think would slack off the moment they aren’t being looked over their shoulder at?

    1. ForestHag*

      That’s a good question, and my guess is that’s how they learned how to manage. I have certainly worked with my fair share of micromanagers and bad bosses who thought constant monitoring was just “how it’s done”. I had been told by them that they didn’t know what to do with themselves because I was so good at my job, I didn’t need to be monitored, and they were just beside themselves. :/ Thanks I guess?…

    2. Alex*

      My suspicion is because they themselves would not work hard without someone looking over THEIR shoulder. It’s projection.

      1. Denny Anonymous*

        You have hit the nail squarely on the head. So much of this type of nonsense is managers projecting their own flaws and insecurities into staff. It’s extremely aggravating.

        And I say that not only as a manager, but as a manager of managers.

  33. LZ*

    Just chiming in as a person who works in an office but some of my coworkers work from home – I would never write someone off just because they didn’t answer my phone call! WTF lol.

  34. Whale whale whale*

    Oof, that’s rough. I work fully remote, there isn’t even an office in my province for me to go to. And honestly, it’s the most productive I’ve ever been. I used to work in a big open concept office and would get distracted all the time. It would take ages to get anything done properly. Now I just put my status to do not disturb when I need to focus and it actually works. I also finally have time to do professional development and the I do is much better for it!

  35. Yup*

    I have been freelancing for almost 15 years now, AKA working from home. COVID finally helped eliminate some of those stereotypes, and people learned what it means to be at home, have no commute (aka more time to work), and still perform. Because–surprise!–if you work from home and slack off, you’re not going to be working for very long.

    I hate that this understanding is starting to fade. That really sucks. My dad–who never worked from home and retired long before COVID hit–still asks my sis and I (both remote workers) how people can be trusted to work from home. “But you can just go to the movies instead of working!” Well, Dad, A) not if you’re a 9-5 employee and B), sure thing, and I do as a freelancer. I also make up for it on Saturday mornings and have never missed a deadline.

    This letter has me shaking my head in frustration again.

    1. WellRed*

      Hmm. I swapped my commute time for more personal time or work life balance, not more work.

    2. Marion*

      Yeah my husband has been full time remote since the first lockdown, with no plans to go back to an office. At a family BBQ a friend of my father in law needed to know “but how do managers know if people are working all day when they’re home?”

      Because… the work gets done. What business are you picturing where there are absolutely NO metrics to track if work is getting done or not?

      1. Yup*

        Right? What do they think is happening, they are somehow handing in all their work well, answering calls, but teleporting to the movies in secret? (I mean hats off to them if they can do it! LOL!)

  36. Joe Lies*

    The butts in the seats attitude us still out there. My last job (a six figure in house consultant position) required manager approval to leave 15 minutes early. Ever. Never mind the 60-80 hours worked a week. So I think that WFH panic is alive and well.

    1. Lana Kane*

      If WFH panic hasn’t gone away by now, I think we will always have a version of it floating around. At least, maybe until a couple of generations of leaders retire and we have people in leadership who came up with WFH being normal.

  37. Peon*

    I have to say that meeting productivity for my team has gone WAY up since we started doing most by zoom. Reason? We’re a technical team and often have technical questions; before 2020, we’d discuss whether something was true or not for 25 minutes before tabling it to revisit the next week. NOW we take 5 minutes to actually look up the answer or write a quick test or whatever, get the answer AND then make a decision.

    1. Joe Lies*

      Didn’t know if you were responding to me…my point was, if staff are managed that closely in the office, just imagine how suffocating WFH was during the pandemic. Hint: very. And post pandemic the claw back to M-F in the office is ongoing. I retired but my former colleagues are under the gun to be in the office.

  38. Anon for this*

    Has anyone else. noticed a trend to bait-and-switch from employers re office working requirements?

    For the past few years I’ve been working as a contractor rather than an employee. A couple of times recently I’ve been put forward by an agency for a hybrid role, only to find out at interview that the job is actually five days a week on site. In one instance I was interviewing for a role that was supposed to be hybrid, with perhaps three days a week at a place which would be a reasonably convenient location to me. However at the interview I was told that it would be five days at a location which would be an absolute nightmare commute.

    I’m now trying to work out some form of wording to the agency so I can check if they really are sure this is a hybrid role in the place they think BEFORE I actually have the interview – but obviously I don’t want to come across as “difficult”.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yes. I was hired at a 3 days WFO, 1 days WFH company at the beginning of the year. About 3 months later they went to 1 day WFH/4 days WFO.

    2. Coffee Protein Drink*

      It is really common in job listings to see a role described as remote or hybrid (probably to be caught on a keyword search), but candidates find out at the interview that it’s 100% onsite.

      1. pally*

        Yes! I’ve seen the job ad say “remote” in the title but then the very first line of the job description indicates “100% onsite at location X”.
        Hmm, proofreading failure?

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Haha – my husband got an email from a recruiter a few weeks ago with REMOTE in all caps and highlighted. But the role clearly described activities that could only be done on site, in a lab. He emailed something like, “I’d be potentially interested, but since these things obviously require being on site, can you clarify if this is a hybrid or office only role” and never heard back.

    4. Denny Anonymous*

      Yes. This is absolutely infuriating and nonsensical.

      Two jobs back, I was hired to be full time WFH because I was the only person on my team in my state.

      Then a new senior manager starts and all of a sudden I need to be in office 5 days a week for 6 months, despite the office being almost 2.5 hours each way from my house, no one else on my team being based there, the office not being set up for my job, and my entire team being geographically dispersed.

      But most worryingly, I was put in the middle of a large open office, despite the fact I spend a lot of time on Teams calls that are sensitive at best and usually highly confidential to the point that security clearances are required (and the people in that open office did not have the same level, leading to constant issues). No private office was available.

      The senior manager “accidentally” revoked my remote access (against policy) so I had to drag in to that open office 5 days a week, commuting almost 5 hours a day, where I was unable to do most of my job because I couldn’t discuss anything that required a higher security clearance than those around me had (which was about 75% of my work). I had to get the department’s CEO equivalent to intervene, and had my remote access restored, and then had to put up with the senior manager’s ranting and bullying.

      She was never able to explain why she needed me to attend an office 5 days a week, especially as it was against policy, and I was transferred away from her within 6 weeks…along with the rest of the 40 person team, who were all gone within 3 months. Essentially, it was about micromanagement, control, projection, and feeling threatened by anyone even remotely capable.

      There’s been a change since that no WFH restrictions can be used for people in certain roles, that covers everyone on my former team. Despite this, I’ve just heard the same senior manager (now demoted, thankfully!) is trying to force her new team into the office 5 days a week, when every person is the only person based in their state. Sigh.

      Some people are not fit to hold positions of any power whatsoever, especially management.

  39. WellRed*

    This is a case where malicious compliance is satisfying. Headed to the bathroom. Back from bathroom. Stepping into kitchen for coff… back from getting coffee. Just prepare for me to log on exactly at 9 and announce my log off at 5, not a second over.

  40. Gray Lady*

    I still believe there are significant overall advantages to in-office for a higher percentage of the workforce than many of us would like to admit. But “you might miss a call because you didn’t announce to all and sundry that you were going to the bathroom” is just BONKERS. That’s just desperately trying to find a reason when they can’t point to a more realistic business necessity.

    1. djx*

      “I still believe there are significant overall advantages to in-office for a higher percentage of the workforce than many of us would like to admit.”

      When we add in the costs of commuting and the more limited talent pool I don’t think it’s clear at all. All else being equal in person is probably better overall, but all else is not equal.

      1. Gray Lady*

        Not interested in debating the point. I only said that to show that it’s possible to think that WFH isn’t always the best but still think these people are bonkers.

    2. flamingo*

      I agree with this: I still believe there are significant overall advantages to in-office for a higher percentage of the workforce than many of us would like to admit

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        That’s true. 0.00000000000000000000 … 00001 is greater than 0.0.

  41. samwise*

    Hybrid is what academics in higher ed have been doing for decades. For many subject areas, professors are in the office to teach, hold office hours, and attend meetings. Much of their work could be done remotely.

    When I was a prof, I worked way more than 40 hours a week, but most of it was outside the office.

  42. Jo-El*

    My opinion:
    1. Most jobs are done better in person. The interplay between employees is almost always a crucial component.
    2. Most employees will do the level required of them so you raise the level to keep them busy for 8 hours (in person OR remote). I know how long each step of the process is for my employees so I set work loads accordingly. If you don’t want to effectively manage people, don’t be a manager.

    1. Pita Chips*

      Re #1, Interplay between employees can be had with remote workers. It’s not like Slack and the like weren’t around until lockdown (so were conference calls for that matter), people interact with each other virtually all the time when they’re physically in the same building.

      Is it the same? No, of course not.

      Re #2 Yes this a thousand times.

    2. Lady Danbury*

      Re: #1. If this were true, we wouldn’t have so many successful multinational or even multistate companies. I’ve spent a significant percentage of my career working with people who did not sit in the same place as me, even when working in office. Interplay between employees has just as much to do with the company culture and providing them with the correct tools/technology for collaboration as location.

      1. djx*

        Adding it takes some intentionality to make remote work right. And it can. My direct report is in another country. We have never met in person. We work great together. It’s entirely possible and perhaps even better.

      2. Lana Kane*

        This is an excellent point. People have been working with colleagues all over the world for a long time now. It has its challenges but it can be done, and done well, if companies invest in the infrastructure to make that possible.

    3. Mim*

      Some of us prefer and are better at written communication. I’ve found that a lot of people in leadership position at my current and past employers are not nearly as sophisticated at written communication as they are at schmoozing and saying things with authority and a smile.

      And when I say written communication, I mean in both directions. Composing and comprehending. Though to be fair, I find that selective listening happens in person too. At least when it’s in written communication there is evidence of what was actually said and not read/comprehended.

      I’m all here for a move more toward the written word. Doesn’t have to be all the way, but there are a lot of companies being lead by people who can be charming in person, with folks who can be more competent on (virtual) paper getting stuff done.

      My employer has a habit of working on the schmooze model – leadership doesn’t fully understand what is needed, and pushes its ambitions too quickly, causing huge problems down line. Haste makes waste, on a systemic level. The times I most value in person verbal communication at work is when we are untangling the results of that stuff. The times when it would be nearly impossible to say what is needed in writing without sounding righteously snarky. Not that my employer has its stuff together to regularly monitor our communications. That would require proper staffing. For me, a need to say things without writing it out feels like a red flag. I know that’s not universal, but it feels like a thing to consider.

  43. lilsheba*

    We have proven for 4 years that any office job or call center job can be done from home. The need for an office is outdated. Plus it allows more disabled people to work and actually earn some money. They can work they just can’t handle the commute.

    1. Pita Chips*

      Plus it allows more disabled people to work and actually earn some money. They can work they just can’t handle the commute.

      I wish more people recognized what a huge deal this is.

      1. Alex*

        It’s also a huge deal for the environment. Millions of people NOT getting in their cars and sitting in traffic for an hour+ each day sending carbon into the air.

      2. Garblesnark*

        Part of the reason I left a previous job had a lot to do with this.

        I can drive. I am regularly complimented on my driving. But SuperMegaMultiCorp, where I worked, would not accommodate me with parking. I had an accessible parking placard (obtained with a prescription from my doctor), but they had only three accessible parking spots for the seven-floor parking garage I was assigned to, and because I worked a later shift due to business needs, they were all already taken by the time I arrived.

        I called SMMC parking, and they said that since the parking garage was owned technically by a sister company, they couldn’t do anything. I called the sister company, who said they couldn’t afford more blue paint, and anyway I wasn’t their employee, so I should get over it. I called SMMC parking back; they said this was not a problem at all – there was actually a parking lot they owned just two miles from my workstation with accessible parking that I could use.

        I told the folks at parking to explain to me very slowly how parking two miles from my workstation was going to help with the documented problem that I am bad at walking. They said there was a shuttle. I said, “is the shuttle accessible?” they said “yes.” I said “explain exactly how the shuttle is accessible.” The shuttle may have met ADA regs but it was absolutely never going to be safe for me to use.

        SMMC was shocked that the job didn’t work out.

  44. logicbutton*

    It’s fine to stay home to let in a repair person, as long as nobody tries to call you while you’re letting a repair person in!

  45. Zona the Great*

    These are the same people who think requiring in-person meetings stops folks from not paying attention in said meeting. I would bet that 99/100 meetings that I’ve had in-person, only a fraction of the people paid any attention. It’s always been that way since before the dawn of time.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      The number of meetings I’ve been in where at least half of the meeting has to be repeated because one or more attendees were doing other work on their laptops is too damn high.

  46. BellyButton*

    I left my last company because after being remote for 5 years before the pandemic and 2 years after they suddenly wanted me back in the office because the new CEO wanted people at a certain level in the office. My entire team was in another country, my boss was in another state, the people I supported were all over North and South America, with less than 1% of those people located in the state where our headquarters were. I would have spent my days on Zoom calls with my office door closed. There was no reason for me to return, it was just his preference. So I fought it until they offered me a severance package and agreed not to dispute an unemployment claim. I left and found a way better job, more money, at a company that is 100% remote and does it very well.

    From casually talking to people it really seems to be company specific and all at the whim of the leaders. I can’t imagine ever going back into an office, not even for 1 day a week.

  47. Allonge*

    OP, a lot of people have experience with WFH now. A lot more of the population got to test it first hand.

    Are there lots of issus with it? Sure, just as there are with open offices, cubicles, shared offices, individual offices, multi-location or multi-time zone companies and so on.

    This may be a weird answer but I don’t think there is a society-level opinion on WFH – but it also does not matter! There is also no society-level understanding on a lot of other issues – this does not mean that someone cannot be badly wrong about stuff. You ran into a weird place, is all.

    1. UKDancer*

      I agree. I don’t even think there’s a shared view on it in my company (remote in lockdown and now hybrid). We have all ranges of views from people who love working from home to those who hate it and vice versa. We have to be in 2 days per week and I know some people who barely want to do that and a few people who come in 5 days per week because they don’t like remote working. So I think it really varies so much even within companies and organisations.

  48. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I knew what Allison meant by “log when you pee” but I chuckled all the same.

    Employees who don’t do a poo when they pee will be duly written up.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Ha! Knowing the little I know about Alison, she avoided even reading this comment!! Hehe

  49. Pizza Rat*

    Talk about a red flag! Who wants to work for a company that doesn’t extend some trust from the get-go?

  50. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

    Lol, my Teams would be a literal nightmare if all of my WFH coworkers announced things as mundane as “going to the bathroom” and “back from the bathroom” in general channels. I would’ve muted all of my chats within a day.

    1. BellyButton*

      I am running to the kitchen to grab my lunch out of the refrigerator. I’ll be back in 2 min, tops. *rolls eyes*

  51. CommanderBanana*

    I know that I have way less patience with my colleagues who aren’t responsive on their WFH day, because we work for a “so now NO ONE gets recess” boss, so every missed call means we’re that much closer to getting our one WFH day a week yanked.

    1. BellyButton*

      Do people not go to the bathroom, make coffee, grab lunch, take another call while in the office?? I will never understand that sort of thinking.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It’s more, we have a client line that is supposed to always be answered, but the 3 people who are tasked with being the first line of people to pick up the phone don’t. That sort of thing.

    2. Bast*

      I worked for a company like that, and it always irked me that instead of addressing the problem with whoever was creating the problem, EVERYONE would get the perk revoked, EVERYONE would get called into a big, long, rambling meeting about our “failure” despite it usually being only one person. They couldn’t figure out WHY this tanked morale.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yep, she definitely does this. All it means is that the people it’s aimed at don’t get that it’s aimed at them, while the rest of us sit there and mentally roll our eyes and imagine leaving.

  52. Someone Else's Boss*

    My company is loving the savings on office space! But as a manager, I am still struggling to bridge the gap left by having a team who never see one another in person. I still struggle when someone isn’t paying attention in a meeting because their child, pet, or partner are lobbying for attention, instead. I think it’s not for everyone, and when I hire, I try very hard to determine if the candidate will be able to focus. That’s not something I screened for in the past, but it feels more relevant in a remote workspace.

    1. BellyButton*

      The savings we gained from closing the offices got put right into our people budget- this allows for every team to get together at least once a quarter and for the entire company to come together 2 times a year. Most companies took that savings and put it back into the profits, my company invested it in a way that has made us have a very successful remote company.

    2. BellyButton*

      If someone isn’t paying attending during a meeting look for a pattern. Does it happen to everyone occasionally? Or, Is it the same person often- then that is a conversation.

      I had to have the conversation with an employee a few months ago. Her husband works out of state and is only home with her for a month every 3 months. When he is home he wants her attention constantly. She becomes hard to reach, gets interrupted, etc. I pointed it out to her and told her it was a disruptive pattern and she needed to figure out a solution- a coworker space, or a coffee shop, or having a conversation with him, whatever, but it was negatively impacting her work, availability, and her contributions to meetings.

      As a manager you look for patterns and address it. It is tough, but it is necessary for you both to do your best work.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        100% this. For example, is their kid interrupting an occasional issue when their kid is home sick or every single afternoon after 3pm (in which case they may need to have alternate after school care arrangements)? Just like the person in office who’s always scrolling on their personal phone, wfh requires managers to manage.

    3. Marion*

      My husband is 100% remote, but his work hosts a day-long in-person meeting about once every other month to get all the departments together. I believe they book a flex-work space. He says it’s great to get everyone on the same page, then go back to your own work at home with renewed vision. It might help you with some of your struggles of never having everyone in the same room!

    4. Denny Anonymous*

      With respect, have you looked into some good management training about managing remote teams and managing staff of different neurotypes?

  53. FL*

    So glad my employer is reasonable about remote work (having been a highly remote workplace already pre-covid) and there is no eye tracking software or even green dot police (at least in my dept.) If you can believe it, our managers actually monitor our performance and track our deliverables!

    These places still exist out here! Although I’m not sure how common they are. I can’t get a decent raise where I’m at but I’ve been scared off job hunting a bit because of stories about ubiquitous return-to-office policies and marginalization of remote workers like the LW’s interviewer has shown here. I hope this type of thing is just toothless backlash against an irreversible trend of increased flexibility and remote work friendliness. But progress is not guaranteed to us just by the passage of time…

  54. Jo*

    I am too old to be micromanaged like this. I am so blessed to be in a role where I work from home and my direct leadership trusts me to do my job. And believe me, as an introvert, I am much more productive at home. I think the next generation of workers won’t stand for behavior like that either, and then companies will complain that they don’t have enough employees. Treat your current employees well and don’t be an asshole.

    1. Bast*

      Not being able to work from home is certainly a deal breaker for me. I do not want to work 100% remotely, but I have turned down jobs that expected you to just use your (paltry) PTO instead of just working from home in the case of illnesses, car trouble, etc.

  55. Tradd*

    I joined current company in first quarter 2021. The other guy in my department was in the office, and a lot of people were still at home. Fast forward three years, WFH is only allowed if sick or bad weather – and that’s just for me and my dept coworker. We’re the only ones (outside of management) with access to WFH as we’re customs brokers and have to clear urgent stuff on weekends or evenings.

    We’ve interviewed for people for other departments. Folks walked into the interview expecting the job will be WFH even when the job listing and recruiter tells them in office only. Job could be done from home, but management wants people in the office. I’m fine with being in the office. Easier to get stuff done that involves coworkers.

  56. flamingo*

    I was laid off last year. I work in a job (writing computer programs) that can be done 100% remote/hybrid. Almost none of the companies I’ve interviewed with support this.

  57. Ann O'Nemity*

    I wonder how companies like this can attract and retain employees these days!

    It’s one thing to require in-person work when there is a legit business reason. But to make some big to-do about trust is such a red flag.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      My company can now hire talent from all around the country because of there being no physical office. I learn so much from my teammates every day. Willing to bet it’s a much better candidate pool than when it was limited to “people who can commute to the office campus in Suburban Valley, Suburbia”.

      1. BellyButton*

        My boss realized years before the pandemic that he could not get the level of talent he wanted in his city nor get people to move there. So he had to go remote. The company doubled it’s profits in the first year and it only continues to go up.

      2. Anecdata*

        I think there’s a compounded effect too – I know folks who run fully remote (tech) companies, and it was a strong recruiting strategy for them pre pandemic; they struggled to hire in ~2021 when remote work at big city salary was more available, and now they are getting the recruitment effect back, and also an extra boost because they can credibly speak to how they have organized their workflow, communications, onboarding etc to be remote-first, and avoid the pitfalls. Remote workers want to know it’s a good remote experience, not just “we sold the office for cash!” or “you don’t have to come in! (but also you’ll never get leadership facetime if remote)

  58. evens*

    I don’t know. I know this site really likes to bash on the idea that companies should keep an eye on their workers and hold them accountable, but we’ve also had people write in saying they were doing two full-time jobs from home. It’s hard to hold bad actors accountable without infringing a bit on the honest workers. That is a slightly more nuanced take than many people want to take, however.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Nowhere on this site does Alison or the commentariat ever suggest that companies shouldn’t hold their employees accountable. We just believe that companies have better ways of tracking that accountability than requiring their workforce to check out a hall pass like an elementary schooler or submit to Big Brother levels of monitoring.

    2. Victim of Experience*

      All employers should hold their employees accountable for ACTUAL PERFORMANCE, not PERFORMATIVE TIMEKEEPING. Butt-in seat time is used as a proxy for actual performance management by poor managers.

    3. M*

      Yes, a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Do you want WFH? Call out your bad coworkers (or knock it off if you’re that guilty party) who go to Target for three hours in the middle of the day and are unreachable.

      It is extremely extremely frustrating as someone who cannot be remote due to the nature of my job to have to deal with the absentee WFH folk. My boss is extremely understanding when my work gets held up while I’m waiting to hear back from someone at least!

    4. Head sheep counter*

      I enjoy the juxtaposition of this post vs yesterday with the coworker calling in via video on their bed.

    5. hodie-hi*

      I’m replying to evens, who wrote “I know this site really likes to bash on the idea that companies should keep an eye on their workers and hold them accountable.”

      I don’t think this is true. Employers should be able to identify bad actors without infringing on the rest of their employees. I think accountability is the focus of much of Alison’s responses and commenters’ as well. Both employees and employers need to meet performance requirements. Employees need to do the their work and not be jerks. Employers need to manage properly and not be jerks. I don’t think people who appreciate AAM would “bash” these ideas.

    6. Denny Anonymous*

      Peer reviewed studies show the true number of people working more than 1 full time job at once is so small that, statistically, it is literally irrelevant.

  59. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “I’d love to have your take and the readers’ take on whether society as a whole has changed its view on working from home.”

    I think, broadly, most employers seem to be begrudgingly accepting that for places where work *can* be done from home, they’re going to struggle immensely with making folks come back into the office five days a week. The cat is out of the bag and there’s no putting it back. But beyond that, it feels like if they could have us back full time, they absolutely would. I think there’s still a lot of underlying suspicion that people who work from home aren’t working as hard.

    I remember when the pandemic first started there were all these articles about how it was going to change the nature of work forever, that the work from home revolution was here, etc. I read those stories with a skeptical eye because it always seemed really obvious to me that most leaders were allowing telecommuting not because they wanted to but because they *had* to. At least among my family and friends, our employers didn’t seem to have leaders who were really interested in re-imagining what work looked like in 2020 and beyond. We’d have to rethink the nature of what we do, the why and the how, establish new processes, essentially have a paradigm switch. If you’re going to do that correctly, that’s a lot of work and it takes time to get right and so many companies were just flying by the seat of their pants to figure out things in the short term. It honestly feels like a lack of imagination about how things could be done and how we can do things better, and I’m a bit deflated by it.

    There are more remote-first companies than there were five years ago, but they still very much seem in the minority.

  60. Hot Dish*

    One exception to the idea that notifying people that you’re using the restroom is bonkers: my husband works on the traffic reports and markets need constant coverage/monitoring. They all let each other know when they step away for a few minutes so that someone else can cover if needed.

  61. Annie E. Mouse*

    I’ve been thinking about this one from the employee side. I work for a F50 who is doing RTO right now. We’re officially supposed to be 3 days in, 2 remote, but there’s some flexibility for departments to enforce what they want. Everyone who I talk to hates going into the office and constantly complains about what a drain it is to productivity, the lost time, and on and on. Our employee survey just came out a few weeks ago and the reported results were positive about RTO and had all these quotes about people loving being back.

    I can’t decide if I just live in a bubble echo chamber or if my company cooking the survey results.

    1. Katie*

      I find it hard to believe people are reacting positively to a return to work order. That sounds like they are spinning some stats.

    2. Head sheep counter*

      I suspect bubble. We all have a bias towards our own wishes. There are lots of reasons for RTO that people do appreciate.

    3. nnn*

      I don’t know how your survey was worded, but I’ve seen some similar surveys worded in ways that could be interpreted however the person doing the interpreting want it.

      For example, “I like the current 3 days in 2 days remote arrangement (y/n)”

      If you say yes, does it mean that you like being in the office? Or does it mean that you like having the option to be at home? How will the employer interpret or spin it? If you say you don’t like it because you have to go into the office 3 days and that’s too many, will the employer interpret it to mean you don’t like it because you want to be in the office 5 days?

    4. Denny Anonymous*

      People are often afraid to be honest in this type of survey, and how accurate the results are depends not only on that, but also how the survey is worded, and indeed, if the company is actually honest. Were the quotes selectively chosen and edited? For example, if someone said they love being back in the office, were they actually saying that regarding their fortnightly team day, when everyone is in, or in general?

      The vast majority of surveys indicate very strongly that people do not want to be pointlessly dragged back into an office, and less than 5% of people want to work onsite full time. A lot of people like hybrid, but it’s heavily context based, and “hybrid” for some people is 1 day onsite a month or quarter, whereas for others, it’s 1-2 days a week onsite, and for others, it’s 1 WFH day a fortnight or month.

  62. Abundant Shrimp*

    I just want to share a pet peeve that I’ve had ever since the discussions about remote work started. I’ve been working in IT since the late 80s, in the US IT since the late 90s.

    In all my jobs but the first three that were at tiny startup companies, we were issued company laptops, told to take them home each day, with the expectation that we had to be able to log in and work on nights and weekends if needed. No one ever questioned our ability to work remotely in that way.

    At some point in my career, employers started laying off local staff and replacing them with offshore. For years, we had teammates that we worked with, talked to on team calls each day, that lived halfway across the globe and whom we never met in person. Not one member of the leadership ever questioned our ability to work remotely in relation to these teammates, and theirs with us.

    In 2020, people started working from their homes, saving time and money, and all hell broke loose. Suddenly, the leadership could not trust them when it had no problems trusting them with the same thing before. It’s almost like, when remote work results in cheaper labor, it’s just fine. When it results in employees saving money, omg somebody call 911, we’ve got a crime of time theft on our hands. I cannot stand the hypocrisy. (My own employer went fully remote in 2020 and has stayed that way.)

    1. Isabel Archer*

      You nailed it, Abundant Shrimp. The employer mindset that they “own” their employees’ time goes back over a century.

  63. Katie*

    I am extremely pro working from home. My current employee I let her do what I want. It was an internal hire two years ago and part of the reason I chose her was I knew her work which previously. Her work is great and I never worry about what she is doing.

    But then there was some project team I had with people I didn’t know. It was very standard repeatable easy work. Some of them struggled bad with it (others easily succeeded) I could never tell if it was because they were slackers or because they just didn’t understand this basic repeatable thing. If they were in person I could have been able to easily hone in on it and see what they were doing myself.

    My current batch of project team is doing great and I don’t worry what they are doing at all because they are producing results.

    1. Denny Anonymous*

      I’ve managed geographically dispersed teams for a long time, and when this happens, I’ll ask them how I can best set them up for success, ensure the SOPs are updated and easy to follow and available in different formats, do a screen share so we can go through the tasks together, or have them booked in for refresher training.

  64. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    If I ever heard of a company asking for malicious compliance. I would be making sure both at home and in office I was obnoxiously over notifying.
    Going to pee!
    Getting a glass of water!
    Answering a phone call!
    Getting a coffee!
    Coughing spell!

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      Going to pee, back in 2.5 minutes!
      (ten minutes later) Sorry everyone. I accidentally pooped too. I apologize for the inconvenience it may have caused!

    2. BBB*

      these poor, hypothetical coworkers are about to learn way too much about my IBS struggles I guess lmao

  65. Joan Crawford's Jello Mold*

    I think a company’s attitude towards hybrid/WFH also hinges on how much space they have leased out and they can’t/won’t break the lease.

    In my business (Hollywood studio stuff) our section of the business was able to quickly adapt to WFH and keep the studios going during the pandemic. But now that things are “back to normal” (outside of the WGA/SAG strike fallout and current IATSE negotiations), studios are more picky than ever about having their employees who performed flawlessly at home be in the office only because of office space going to waste.

    1. Tradd*

      Yes, this! My company owns main office space and I’m convinced that’s why we won’t ever be fully WFH!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Likewise. I have a friend and former peer who works for a company that’s trying to single-handedly prop up the commercial real estate market. I’d love to work there, too, but my history shows pretty bluntly that I’m more productive as a remote worker.

        1. Denny Anonymous*

          Yep. The pro-RTO, anti-WFH push is mostly about commercial real estate and control over workers.

    2. Our Business Is Rejoicing*

      There is certainly some truth to this. My company has very much embraced hybrid work. We have grown considerably since 2020, and the amount of leased space we have would not be enough for us now. In my department, people are pretty much allowed to pick how much they will be in the office–anything from once a month to every day. There are a few jobs that require being onsite, but they’re in the minority. My own job is actually better performed remotely (I do presentations where a quiet environment is very helpful) and this is recognized and embraced. We’re also a very flexible group–it’s known and expected that because we sometimes work in the evening or have to travel, being away in the middle of the day on an errand (so long as the team is aware) is fine. This has been particularly helpful with folks who have to leave to pick up kids from school, etc.

  66. Lazuli Rose*

    We worked from home from mid-March 2020 to early June 2020. We were administrative staff in a museum office. WFH was never a thing we ever did and we were not micromanaged at all. Sometimes I would not hear from my direct manager until late in the day, which was surprising because in the office he sometimes was a bit micromanger-y.

    Now, they will let certain department directors work from home for specific things, such as the director of marketing asks to update the website at home since she will not be interrupted, but otherwise, we are expected to be in the office. We asked about occasional WFH but they rejected it. Honestly, I could do 85% of my job from home, but they want us in the office.

    I do miss WFH. I was more relaxed, even in the pandemic, and lost 30 pounds because I could move around and eat when I wanted. It was easier for me to eat healthier since I could step in the kitchen and make something vs. having to try to pack lunch and remember to grab it as I head out the door.

    So for us, no real change about the company’s views on WFH.

  67. Essentially Cheesy*

    WFH has been ruined for me because I had a boss like that. He would call me at my literal quitting time and expect me to help him.

    Sad part is that my hybrid WFH plan was about 2-3 hours in the afternoons. He couldn’t function if I wasn’t in the office with him for a solid portion of the day.

    Honestly I’m so glad he’s retired and that I don’t need to worry about WFH (I work 15 minutes max from work). The WFH expectations for Corporate/metro employees is a lot different that suburban or even rural employees.

  68. learnedthehardway*

    For the record, I don’t take my CLIENTS’ calls when I am already on the phone or in an interview with a candidate. I also don’t take their calls when I am in the bathroom, in the middle of taking a bite to eat, etc. That would be rude.

    With the exception that I only just did that because it was a real emergency – five alarm fire kind of emergency – and my interviewee was late and we were going overtime. So, it does happen, but it is NOT the norm for me to drop everything if/when a client calls me.

    These people are wildly off base about their expectations of employee availability.

  69. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

    OMG, I once worked at a place (in the office) where we had to tell our co-workers that we were “going to the library” when we were going to the bathroom. (The bathroom was in the library- this was in higher ed.) We were never allowed to leave our desks without telling everyone exactly where we were going. We were not directly customer-facing and the majority of our communications were via email or a ticketing system. Our boss was just a major control freak. I no longer work there.

  70. BBB*

    I only work in office one day a week and it is BY FAR my least productive day. it’s almost like listening in to 47 different phone calls happening around me in cubicle farm hell is not conducive to the deep work and focus my job requires (insert eye roll emoji here)

    1. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

      Right? I work fully from home now, and I’m MUCH more productive, even when I have times when I slack off. My current remote employer gets so much more work out of me as a WFH employee than any office ever did, AND I have a much better work-life balance. Everyone wins!

      1. BellyButton*

        And being happy means I produce better work, I am more engaged, I am excited to go the extra mile, and I take less sick time.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, this.

      I’m far more productive WFH, but I’m not completely opposed to going to the office once a week or a few times a month, at least not on days when there’s more than a handful of coworkers there. Going to a near-empty office is depressing. I’m not at all shy about telling people, including my manager, that the main reason why I go to the office is to “network with my coworkers,” i.e. socialize. She’s fine with that and trusts me to do what needs to be done regardless of where I work.

      I’ve been a freelancer before, and I must say that I vastly prefer being a member of a community all contributing to the same goal. But I get more work done at home, and if I’m really overworked, I’ll definitely opt out of going to the office unless I absolutely have to.

  71. Irish Teacher.*

    I correct the state exams in Ireland. It’s always been remote work, but starting last summer, it went online (prior to that, we got bags of physical papers to correct). Although in theory, this gave them huge amounts of information on us – they can see when we are online, how many papers we are correcting in real time, etc – they were very clear that they would only be checking in if, for example, they noticed days had gone by without somebody logging in to correct.

    And while we have always been expected to be contactable, it has never been a case of “don’t ever miss a phonecall” (even back when I started in 2007). If we are going to be away for a day or something, for example at a wedding (this comes up a lot as July is the main time for correcting), we are expected to let our advising examiner know we will be out of contact, but…that’s for a day, not if we are busy for an hour or so.

    They were quite clear last summer that while they now have way more information on us and how we work, it is remote work, which means that we can work our own schedules. I generally start at 1:30pm, work to around 4, take an hour or so’s break, work again from about 5:15 or 5:30 until around 7 and then do another hour or two from about 8:30pm. And I’m often not up before around 10am, so if my advising examiner contacts me before that, yeah, it has to wait. (For years, I worked under and advising examiner who was very much a morning person, so we sort of had an unspoken understanding that she didn’t expect replies from me before 10am and I didn’t expect them from her after about 9:30pm.)

    I think the company you interviewed with is just well…basically full of banana suits.

  72. here to help*

    I remember pre-COVID when my (low level) manager let my team know to put our coats on the back of our chairs when we arrived at the office, because the appearance of being present was what mattered most to the higher ups. As long as we observed that ritual, we were trusted to just get work done from wherever. The culture did not approve of any working from home, and we had little infrastructure to support doing so anyway.

    After being forced home by the pandemic, now that same organization is quite happy to have everyone work remotely because it saves them a ton of money on renting office space.

    1. AnonORama*

      LOL, when I worked in the law firm one of the partners had a desk lamp that was on all the time, a suit jacket over the back of his chair, a briefcase that he’d leave near his desk, and a half-empty bottle of water on the desk at all times. I honestly thought he just lived in the office until I realized that the thing I rarely saw in his office was…him.

      1. I think I’ll go to California*

        This reminds me of an old Super Bowl commercial where a manager has an office chair with its back to the door, directly facing the window. The executive opens the door, sees the back of the chair and hears typing, but doesn’t realize there’s no one in the office. There are crumbs spread on the keyboard, and the office window is open to the birds, who are snacking on the crumbs. The commercial ends with the executive saying “Great work, Johnson!“.

  73. Joyce to the World*

    I was 100% WFH for over 10 years. Just recently our org started instituting a hybrid model. So, I have to drive 45 mins each way for my one day a week in office. It’s OK. I get it. I will save my complaints for something more worthwhile, but I sure do get much more work done while at home and I put in longer hours. I also am on certain medications that cause frequent trips to use the bathroom. I spend so much more time having to walk across a building. I also have to wipe down the desk and equipment before using it as another user is gross. Then I have to unpack my equipment, set up, reboot because it doesn’t want to connect the first time around. Then end of the day, pack up again. Then I head home and I am finally able to get serious about getting into work.

  74. Coffee Protein Drink*

    I’ve done 100% remote and various forms of hybrid since 2008. Many people’s attitudes have changed, but not all. Some people, usually the insecure who have control issues, wants people there for the sake of people being there. I’ve never been subjected to remote monitoring, happy to say.

    Another place I’ve seen attitudes not changing is from people who don’t have a WFH option. Many seem to still be under the impression that people aren’t really working when they’re at home.

  75. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    My team has 2 days WFH, 3 in office. 2 of my in-office days are full of distraction because the whole team is in and we’re talking over the cube walls and figuring out what to do for lunch. I do my collaboration stuff on those days, and am decently productive WFH and on my quiet IO day. I think it’s a nice mix.

  76. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    When I speak to job seekers who are specifically looking for remote work, they are in 3 main categories: 1. VERY rural so local jobs are hard to find, 2. disabled and needing accommodation, 3. have childcare issues (especially for the “need to get the kid off the school bus but then they’re fine” crowd).

    The choices are so very very slim these days, and fully remote jobs get so many applications that it’s almost impossible to get an employer’s attention. I’m hoping the pendulum can trend a little bit back to additional WFH options.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Pre-Covid, it was far more unusual for an employer to start a new employee off as “fully remote” than it is now. Back then, you had to put in your time in office in order to get to a WFH arrangement.

      At a couple of places where I worked, everyone was hired with a fully in-office expectation, but once you were trained up and had proven yourself to be an above-average performer, you were allowed more WFH options. It usually started off with allowing WFH on occasion, then morphed into a set day or days each week. If an employee proved themselves to be less than self-motivated or produced only poor to average output in office, that employee was generally kept butt-in-seat.

      In other words, WFH was an eventual privilege for proven above-average performers, not a universal right for everyone on Day One.

  77. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    My boss once dinged me for missing a phone call because I was in a meeting… with my boss.

    1. Our Business Is Rejoicing*

      Two jobs ago (close to 20 years ago), I was a very early hybrid worker. While working in the office, there was a quarterly “town hall” type of meeting. The meeting went long, and I left early because of a scheduled project call. I got reamed out by my boss because of “optics”–because my mighty 2-up boss (all hail!) saw me leave. So basically, some BS meeting where no one could keep to an agenda and it was just about reviewing how awesome the departmental favourites were (obviously not me) was more important than my actual job.

      I was later put on an informal PIP for “not prioritizing work correctly,” and laid off soon after. (I was told by coworkers after leaving that my boss found out very quickly what I had been doing with my time when she had to pick up all my work.)

  78. A_Jessica*

    I mean if people working in office can take 10 minute smoke breaks multiple times a day without announcing it to their team people working from home should be able to run to the loo without having to announce it to their team.
    Same for missed calls.

    So long as WFH people are meeting all of their expectations I don’t see the problem.

  79. cxxxb*

    My mom and I had a debate about this just yesterday. Mom is a recruiter for highly technical high 6 figure roles and is of course, a boomer. She is so anti-remote work its shocking. Even though she works fully remote (lol forever). I am a very low paid social worker and have been for 11 years, my job has no prestige, low pay and long hours including nights and weekends but it is extremely fulfilling. I work remote 2ish days a week. My new supervisor wants to remove this “perk” which my former supervisor agreed to. What my old (amazing) supervisor said was “we ask a lot of you; nights, weekends-time away from your family and home. Yet we don’t pay you nearly your worth. So we have to give you SOMETHING, and that something is flexibility”. I think if I was making high 6 figures with generous benefits I would feel differently. But we also all learned that we can work remotely for almost 4 years, so what’s the problem now?

  80. Susannah*

    Ugh, good you saw the office culture – or offie management style – in time to avoid it. Even if I worked every day in the office, I would not want to work with and for people that controlling and distrustful.
    And I’d tell them exactly why I’m not interested. Honestly, I would have bene tempted to say, I’m going to end this interview right here. I’m fine with working every day in the office, but I’m not fine with the attitude that’s being displayed here about the integrity and trust in the workforce. Get up, shake hands and LEAVE.

  81. sofar*

    There’s a lot of assumptions that it’s always managers/leadership pushing for return-to-office. At my workplace, it’s been the non-managers (or lower-level ones) who spend the most time-in office. I suspect it’s been because those with higher incomes used the pandemic as the chance to high-tail it to a big house far away from the city and they do NOT want to come back. Meanwhile, those living with roommates or in a studio with a spouse want a dedicated workspace at least a couple times a week.

    I was one of the first to go back in-office, and I felt a palpable annoyance from my (still remote) manager at the time if I wasn’t available to answer a Slack at 8 a.m. because I was driving to work … or if I had to spend 5 minutes booking an office and moving my laptop in there when she Slacked me with a “hey can you hop on a call?” fire drill.

    1. UKDancer*

      This so much. In my company the young people (living in house shares and uncomfortable accommodation) were the first ones to want to come back. London is an expensive place to live and a lot of people had suboptimal living arrangements.

      It’s the older better paid staff with houses with work spaces who didn’t want to come back in.

      1. sofar*

        I remember holding back tears working from my chaotic place trying to look “professional” in a house with multiple people working from cramped corners.

    2. Head sheep counter*

      Yeah the privilege and narrow view of the world always pops up in these threads. Because… WFH isn’t great universally for a lot of reasons. Show me you have money or access to resources (large enough living accommodations, broadband, a tech related job that can be done from home etc) without expressly saying you have money or resources… looks side-eye at commenters as someone who technically has resources but is a) not a fan of being home 24-7, b) has a job that can’t be remote (security concerns) c) lives in an area with vast income discrepancies and thinks that we have bigger problems to solve than this.

      1. sofar*

        Yes. And all the pearl-clutching of, “Ohhhh are you IN OFFICE??? I was thinking of going back one day a week but … the risk is just too high with this new variant. … By the way, my son’s wedding was just LOVELY this weekend, was so great to get back to normal and see everyone.”

        1. Head sheep counter*

          I’m very lucky that I don’t run into those characters very often. They are annoying and gross.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I love WFH, but I understand not everyone does. I still think a lot of the “reasons” people /orgs give against WFH show other issues with work: micromanaging (like this example), disabling and not inclusive environments (thinking people do better learning/communicating by osmosis and not of different communication needs and explicit systems, not creating clear and equitable onboarding and mentorship — predictably, certain groups are more advantaged or disadvantaged when no systems are created), bad management not knowing what metrics or performance indicators to track (if it’s not a coverage based job, don’t use butts in seats), etc.

        I think in office jobs or hybrid jobs where some folks choose to work in office can be great jobs. But most of the reasons people give to RTO make me think that the jobs in their offices aren’t great.

  82. I think I’ll go to California*

    Color me cynical, but having come from an employer who stopped by my desk to tell me that my bathroom break was too long, I see this as a way to prevent people from working from home, but in a plausibly deniable way. The employer can still (disingenuously) advertise it in the job description as a benefit when they really intend to use it as a perk (i.e., a “flexible employer”, who offers “unlimited time off” and “work-life balance“, translates to “you’ll be micromanaged and watched like a hawk by a manager who expects you to produce like a machine, and all the work-life balance will be in favor of employer”).

  83. Head sheep counter*

    The company here is… weird. Missing a call and returning it within a few minutes is… quicker than what I perceive as normal. Telling anyone about my bathroom habits… is distinctly undesirable.

    That being said, in general I think this post is hilarious in juxtaposition to yesterday and the staff person rolling around on their bed and smoking.

    This site has a WFH bias and that’s fine. Its interesting to read. I think folks discount the inherent privilege of WFH. So many jobs are not able to have this option. Period. A lot of those jobs are not as well paid as jobs that could have hybrid or remote options. The disgusting abuse of “front-line” workers should have brought this clearer for some folks… but alas… no.

    1. Parakeet*

      On the other hand, I’ve noticed a lot of people assuming that any job with a WFH option is a higher-paid job, and that’s just not true. I spent most of the pandemic in a largely WFH job at a domestic violence program, doing crisis and other support work with a set of people who were very impacted by the pandemic. Like most such programs, we were under a lot of extra strain during the pandemic. I was making about 55% of my area median income, not exactly rolling in cash. Now, I love remote work, at least for me there are a bunch of inherent plusses (like lack of commute). But I admit, it grated on me to hear people equating WFH with affluence (and often, with a job being less socially useful). I work at a higher-paying nonprofit now, also remote work, but it’s still a nonprofit and I still make a whole lot less than the area median income.

      1. Head sheep counter*

        I think the privilege aspects come in around you having living accommodations that would allow for this as well as job with the same. But yes. Not all WFH jobs are highly paid.

  84. Jo*

    I worked a hybrid schedule of 3 days in office, 2 days at home for many years pre-COVID. I work harder, more productively at home. Generally, I believe in the effectiveness of remote work. But when pretty much everyone worked at home, time abuse is just so prevalent. People laughing about how much work time was spent on the golf course, using tools to make it LOOK like they are actively online, bragging about picking up side work and doing it while being paid by their primary job. I just don’t know anymore. My experience tells me remote work adds value. But there’s so much blatant abuse of it, I’m less trusting of who can/should work from home.

  85. Ava*

    I wish my manager would read AAM. She’s cracking the whip by threaten to take away WFH. I had no idea that she’s so against WFH for her direct reports because she does it the majority of the time. She wouldn’t be able to manage her life without it.

  86. Jenny*

    I’m government and we were 100% WFH from March 2020-April 2022. Since then we’ve been 1 day in the office per week. (Prior to Covid we could work from home 2 days per week.). My boss and the person that work for me are in a different state, so there’s very little reason for me to be in an office. That being said, I don’t mind my one day per week because I get to hang out with 2 co-workers that are friends (we chose to go in the office on the same day), but I am much less productive. There’s some talk about making us come in 2 days per week and that’s annoying.

    I will say that I get annoyed with the people that are constantly pushing the boundaries on WFH. The one day is supposed to be pretty non-negotiable. If you are on leave on your day, you should probably go in a different day. And there are plenty of people that won’t do that. Or there are weeks where there are visitors to the office and you might have to come in 4 or 5 days. That’s probably happened 2 or 3 times a year so not often. But people really fight that. And I think it’s that attitude that causes bosses/businesses to fight WFH because it’s easier just to make everyone show up all the time. My feeling is that I’ve got a pretty good thing going, so I’m not going to rock the boat for no reason.

  87. New Senior Mgr*

    That interviewing group gave you a gift. All you had to do was sit/lean back, arms behind head, and watch then drink the koolaid and spill the tea.

  88. Anon for this*

    I think the company is weird for saying this, but… Look, I’ll be honest – I work way less than 40 hours a week now that I’m fully remote. I was much more productive in office. Am I a random rare outlier? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I end up spending time doing chores, running to the store, and doing errands. It’s great for my lifestyle, but just today I connected late to a call because I’d run out to do something. My boss is very hands off and has no idea. I am also one of those people who has done other paid jobs in addition to my full time, and I know for a fact at least two of my coworkers have too, and that they go to the gym, run errands, etc. I trust my colleagues to get their work done and projects completed, but I’m also sure we’d be doing more (and more hours) if we were all at an office.

    1. PotatoRock*

      For what it’s worth, I’m looking to move on from my company and it would be /much/ faster if I could book a mystery “appointment” midday for interviews – I’ve always wondered if that’s part of companies objection to WFH.

  89. nnn*

    I have noticed that some employers have been getting super weird about working from home in the past couple of years.

    Historically, long before the pandemic, the general vibe has been “People can work from home as and when it makes sense.”

    Whether it makes sense depends on tons of factors. For some jobs it never made sense. For some jobs it only made sense as a one-off under exceptional circumstances. For some jobs it made sense all the time. But from the dawn of the internet until mid-pandemic, I think you’d get a majority of people agreeing with the statement “People should be able to work from home when it makes sense.”

    When the pandemic came down, it (and, I’m sure, unsung efforts by IT teams around the world) vastly expanded the set of circumstances in which working from home makes sense. Solutions to technical limitations were found, practises were adjusted, and suddenly tons more people could do their entire jobs from home with no hindrance.

    Then suddenly, around 2022ish, a bunch of employers started pushing back against people working from home, introducing random rules like you have to be in the office X days a week, regardless of whether it makes sense for you to be in the office. Which is absolutely bizarre – I never would have thought solving the technical constraints to working from home would result in this attitude!

    So now in 2024, even though we likely have a greater portion of the workforce working from home than in 2019, I think we also have a greater portion of the population (or, at least, of employers) saying “The fact that it makes perfect sense to work from home isn’t a good enough reason to do so.”

    1. Jane*

      Unfortunately, those that abuse the WFH scenario (and there are many) ruin the general concept for everyone. I have plenty of mature, “trustworthy” colleagues doing things in the WFH model that I’d never in a million years thought possible. Setting up fake meetings so they can run household errands, leaving for vacation without applying for leave but briefly logging in a couple times a day to seem to be working, skimping on responsibilities where another employee has to pickup calls/customer issues. It’s disheartening.

  90. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Thank dog I work at a fully remote organization and have bosses who actually trust us and know how to manage to results and output rather than micromanaging down to the second. Run don’t walk away from a place that acts like they told you in this interview. I don’t want to stereotype at all but literally all the managers I know who act that way are in the older Boomer generation and cannot seem to even think of accepting that remote work is possible, productive and here to stay. I don’t understand why they’re so threatened by it but they think of it as the end of the working world.

  91. Moonstone*

    I feel so fortunate that my office has remained WFH and my manager understands if I miss a call because I was in the bathroom for three minutes. They know I’m working and can see the output. Those people were absolute loons – one missed call and all trust is lost?!? I do not, and never will, understand that mindset. But at least they waved their giant red flags during the interview and not after you already accepted a job there! They sound like a nightmare to work with.

    I do unfortunately think there has been a massive pushback against WFH now that corporations see how much some employees prefer it; organizations are reining it in and forcing employees back. Anyone see what Dell decreed? That you can either WFH and forgo all promotions and raises, or return to office and be eligible for them. Gross!

  92. Matt*

    #2: I don’t even take all unscheduled phone calls when I’m at my desk (whether it’s at home or in the office). If I’m doing focus work (which is the majority of my work as a software developer) I will wrap up whatever I’m deep inside before answering anything. If something is really urgent, the caller can IM me. (I also try to gently nudge my phone-loving coworkers towards the less invasive, asynchronous methods by being more responsive by email or IM than by phone.)

    This company sounds like hell. Big bad bullet dodged here.

  93. Kat*

    I’d be curious to find out what their policy is with missed calls if you’re already on a call. I’ll frequently be on the phone with a client and a call comes through for me on the other line. I always ignore that call because I want to give the first person my full attention. so would this company fire me for not picking up that second call? it all sounds so micromanaging and asinine

  94. Mouse named Anon*

    This is one of the those times its good to remember you are also interviewing the company. Stuff like this tells you how rigid or flexible they are. Are they going to give you a hard time for doc appointments and vacations too? Do you have kids? Are they going to give you a hard time if they get sick and can’t go to school/daycare? Or if they have a school function you want to attend? Now that I am almost 40, I am picky about who I take a job from. If I get the sense the manager/company culture is rigid and won’t be flexible, its a no for me.

  95. Delta Delta*

    I had an internship in law school one summer that was sort of inverse of this. My manager sometimes worked from home when my co-intern and I were expected to be in the office. My co-intern and I shared an office space and shared an office phone. One day manager was WFH. Co-intern was allowed to leave 1/2 hour before me because she arrived earlier than I did. After she left I left my workspace to put away some materials and go to the restroom. The next morning Manager came in and yelled at me for not being reachable during the 4:00-4:30 hour and went on and on about how it was vital she reach me. When I told her what I was doing she didn’t really have an answer. But it’s stuck with me for over 20 years how terribly unreasonable it was to essentially create an expectation that I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom.

  96. Art of the Spiel*

    Honestly they’re just telling on themselves – they would slack off the minute they were out of sight, and so they think everyone would do that, too.

    Toxic AF and bullet dodged.

  97. Zweisatz*

    In my team there are good examples for trust & work from home. We can generally all work from home, we are not
    micro-managed, but it’s expected your Teams status reflects if you’re present (but no one flips out if you’re “yellow” /inactive for 20 minutes. It’s generally assumed it’s for a good reason).

    One co-worker has run afoul of these rules. Why? Because they often don’t reply for hours (!) on time to messages, even when mentioned personally when they are scheduled to work. They are also not reliably catching up. So it’s not like they take 2 hours to answer each time (deep focus happens), but half the time your message goes completely unanswered. Due to that it’s also intransparent when they work because generally you expect to be able to reach someone when they’re “active”. Same with them missing in meetings with no heads-up why.

    To get back to the question: Missing a call and getting back to the person in less than 60 minutes? NO issue at all.
    If a person is reliable 90 % of the time, the other times it will be assumed it’s justified.

  98. CzechMate*

    You’re right that views of accountability become warped by work from home.

    I work 100% in-person; my husband is 100% wfh. Whenever he starts a new job (he’s had two new ones since 2021) he always cc’s his superiors in EVERY single email he sends until they tell him to stop so that he can demonstrate to them that he’s a competent employee.

    I’ve also noticed that there’s a widening gulf between in-person and online work. It’s almost becoming a class differentiator–if you work in-person, it’s more likely to be a customer support type role, whereas online work is more likely to be specialized, project-based, management, etc. When I meet friends after work and I’m the only person in business casual, it sometimes makes me feel like I’m “the help.” Also, having to explain to people that, no, I can’t just “sneak out” at 3 pm to get drinks. Everyone will see. There has also been some drama in my office about how the phones are answered. When I tell my wfh friends about it, I just get blank stares.

    I’ve also found that the literal language we use to describe our work is changing. I was telling my husband about an upcoming performance review with my boss, and he said, “Oh, what time is your call?” My love, it’s not a call. It’s a meeting. An in-person meeting. Her office is next door.

  99. Mike D*

    The other piece of this which often gets ignored is micro optimization. Even if it’s possible that viewed in isolation every single employee claims to be more productive by themselves if they WFH, it’s also possible that the overall productivity of the entire org is less. (Not saying it is; but we look for micro optimizations that scale poorly all the time as managers). The “a brand new employee doesn’t get trained the same way remotely” is one obvious example but there are surely others.

    I feel like the people who really want to WFH are engaged primarily in motivated reasoning on this and tend to ignore any arguments to the contrary, bringing up irrelevant-to-the-organizational-performance things like “I save so much time by not having to commute!”. There’s very little research on this so we’re all going by gut feels but honestly there’s a lot of people I’ve encountered who never truly came up to speed when their first real job ever was remote. And it’s not me being a bad manager; I’ve observed it across my very large org at the time regardless of management skill and style. It’s simply facile to say “a manager should be able to bring a brand new grad with no job experience up to a professional level with management techniques and if they don’t they must just be a bad manager”.

  100. Matt*

    Yes, but that’s about the question if there should be the option of 100 % WFH or if it should be 30, 40, 50 or 60 %.

    It isn’t entirely relevant for the ridiculousness of the rule that WFHers have to answer every phone call immediately and publicly announce their bathroom breaks, by forfeiting their WFH on first rule infraction because of “trust”.

  101. Erin*

    “But it only takes one missed phone call when you’re working from home for your colleagues to lose all trust in you.”

    Run for the hills.

  102. fhqwhgads*

    Employers who don’t trust their employees are employers who don’t trust their employees. And will find every method possible of communication that lack of trust. If everyone time someone works from home they always miss every call and always call back later (or other obviously delayed replies), that’s a flag. Once and you lose all trust? There was no trust to begin with.
    If they have no way to tell if you’re working other than you answer every unscheduled phone call even if your job is not an answering the phone job, there’s poor management, in office or from home.
    If they need you to announce you’re going to the bathroom, they’re past a point of no return on nonsense.
    I’ve worked from home for 15 years. The days I say nothing at all in slack are my most productive, and my boss and teammates can tell. Because they see the done work. Bad managers hate WFH because it means they have to actually manage (or magically only hire conscientious high performers). If they view “managing” as “I noticed this person walk in the door on time and be at their desk” rather than caring about either the quality or quantity of work, of course they dislike others working from home. That or they’re projecting because they know that they personally slack when working from home and assume everyone else is the same.
    Company cultures that hate WFH for the sake of hating WFH have crap management and either don’t realize it or like it that way.

  103. An Australian In London*

    Listen to anyone in leadership or management complaining about remote work and arguing for return to office. They couldn’t be more plain that it has nothing to do with communication, productivity, staff development, co-location synergies.

    It is 100% about their need to feel in control.

    These are the same managers who created low-partition open plan floors solely because it lets them see what’s on people’s screens. Every study shows that open plan harms every measure of success. It was always about control.

    I am *somewhat* persuaded about remote work representing loss of career opportunities especially for juniors when the work is hybrid; people in the office are more front of mind. To me the answer in workplaces that can be 100% remote is to make everyone 100% remote and start hiring and promoting in part based on remote working skills.

  104. Gateworlder*

    This is probably a place where the interviewer works from home but expects the rest of the company to be in the office. It’s hypocritical to say the least! I’ll bet if we really surveyed anyone in upper level management they’d say that they work from home the majority of the time but expect their subordinates to be in the office.

  105. Greg*

    Obviously none of us was in the room, but based on the OP’s retelling, weirdest part about that conversation was how the interviewer seemed unable to let the matter go. Like, “Just in case my initial statements were too subtle, I’m going to hammer home exactly how dysfunctional, distrustful and controlling our office environment is.”

  106. 653-CXK*

    I was originally in office in my CurrentJob until the pandemic hit, and then on March 18, 2020, I was expecting to return to office within a week.

    As the pandemic swirled its way through the world, it became clear that I was not going to return to the office. My boss was fine with it, as long as I showed up once a week to review the mail. Once they hired someone else closer, my job became WFH five days a week. Just last week I came into the office to take care of some paperwork for about three hours, stopped to get pizza for lunch, and then went home.

    Depending on what I’m doing, I feel equally productive in the office and at home. I can concentrate better on paperwork in the office, whereas computer related things are better done at home. There are benefits and drawbacks from both, but I think I’m better off WFH because I can save so much money and time.

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