when I work from home, do I have to be AT home?

A reader writes:

I recently (about six months ago) started a new job, which is hybrid. I work in-office Wed/Thursday/Friday, and work from home Monday/Tuesday. This hybrid schedule is a change for me, as I previously had more hands-on jobs in the same industry which could not be done remotely. The whole company shares this three-in, two-out schedule, with staggered days in.

Recently, the head of our HR department, Lucinda, sent an email to the entire company “reminding us” that our work from home days have to occur at our home and not at any other location. It also detailed some very reasonable requirements for our remote days — we should be reachable during normal office hours, online on Teams, attending meetings in professional attire, etc.

I have no issue with the second half of this email, but the “reminder” that we have to be physically located inside our homes on work from home days was news to me. I often spend Saturday-Tuesday visiting friends or family, and the freedom to do so is one of the reasons I changed jobs at all. I have also been transparent about these visits with my team, since I didn’t know that it wasn’t allowed (greetings like “Hello from Texas!” or sending photos of my brother’s dog in the pet pictures channel), and have gotten no comments about it. On days when I have no meetings, I sometimes work from cafés or libraries.

To be clear, my location in no way affects my work performance. I log on at 9 (in the office’s time zone), take my normal lunch break, and have never missed a call. I always respond to Teams messages within 15 minutes (which is faster than the norm in my workplace). I take video calls in a quiet room, sitting at a desk. I’m not slacking off during the day to hang out with my friends — but it’s nice to have two more evenings with whoever I’m seeing and not have super rushed weekend visits.

Is only working from my actual home a normal thing for an employer to mandate? In my view, it shouldn’t matter whether I’m in my room or at my cousin’s house a state over or my friend’s apartment on the other side of the country, so long as I am able to complete my work in a professional manner. But I’ve never been in a hybrid workplace before, so I don’t know whether this is actually a norm that I’ve been unintentionally violating!

And regardless, what’s the best way for me to proceed? I really don’t want to give up my travel — like I said, it’s one of the reasons I wanted this job in the first place. Should I apologize to someone (my supervisor, Lucinda, someone else?) for having been out of town on previous work from home days and explain that I didn’t know the policy? I have spoken to some coworkers on a different team who feel similarly — should we together tell Lucinda we don’t think the policy makes sense? Should I just continue my visits, but keep quiet about it?

A lot of employers do mandate that work from home take place in your actual home.

Some of that is for security reasons; your home work space can meet certain security standards that they can’t enforce if you’re working in a coffee shop or from a friend’s house.

Some of it is for tax compliance reasons. In many states, if you work over X days a year in the state, you and your employer both owe that state taxes, and you could even end up creating business nexus in that state for your employer (which would mean they owe them sales tax for sales made in that state, among other complications). That number of days can be a lot lower than you’d think — in some states, it’s as little as one day.

Those are both really legitimate reasons for your employer to have their policy.

As for what to do … I don’t think you need to apologize (and if your manager cared that much, it was on her to say something anyway), but now that you’re aware of the policy, you do need to follow it. Or, at a minimum, you should definitely stop saying things that indicate that you’re not following it (like “hello from Texas”). That’s still taking a risk though, since if your employer ever wanted to check where you’re logging in from, they could. And if something ever happens while you were traveling that you couldn’t hide (you get stuck in state X because of weather or hospitalized during a medical emergency in state Y or whatever it might be), it could come out that way. And now that you’ve been clearly notified about the policy, you wouldn’t be able to plead ignorance. Some people might decide to take that risk anyway, figuring that the chances of being found out were low and that if they were caught, they’d just get a slap on the wrist and be told to stop doing it … but it’s a definite risk, and it might be a bigger one than you’re accounting for.

{ 435 comments… read them below }

  1. Working from "Home"*

    ohhh Excellent timing, I plan on working 200 miles from home next week and feel so weird and sneaky doing so, even though my boss already lets me flex my hours and WFH days and it’s not against policy. I’ve booked a co-working space in the city I’m visting, looking forward to it!

    1. RedinSC*

      At my work it is expressly written in our work from home policy. That you are working from the location you submitted when you signed up for remote work days.

      We can have a few exceptions like on days I have to take my parents to a doctor’s appointment or something, but that should be few and far between.

  2. Witch*

    If you’re in a place that promotes WFH and you’re not going to /be/ home, I’d still err on the side of flagging it for your manager.

    Saying like, “hey I might travel on Sunday to Texas to visit my brother. I’m going to be working from his house on Monday and Tuesday, and come back on Tuesday evening,” gives them a heads up so they can say yes or no and explain why

    1. Quill*

      I would also try to make it obvious that this is the exception. Lots of places are going to be more concerned about working elsewhere when it’s a pattern (say, every other week) than if it happens once in a while.

      1. HA2*

        And if it’s not the exception, talk to your manager! It’s quite possibly going to be fine, but it’s better to ask than to be sneaky.

        1. Jillian*

          My former employer required hybrid employees to be no further away than their normal commute, in case we needed to come in to the office on an off day for coverage or an emergency.

        2. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s what I did. I am technically not allowed to work at my boyfriend’s place because it’s in a different country (that we do have business in and actually a lot of my colleagues live in – we’re near the border. So no business nexus issues. Also no tax issues, because the limit for that is quite high.) The official rule from HR is that we can work from anywhere in our country of residency as well as the country we work in. Well, for me that’s the same, for cross-border commuters, it’s obviously two.

          First thing is that I asked my boss and he saw absolutely no problem with it and I believe even sent me an e-mail that it was fine with him. Second, when they announces the rule, quite a few people in similar situations spoke up (we’re a small country and close to several borders…) and HR was basically like “yeah, well, for a few days here and there, nobody really cares, that’s more for doing it for several weeks at a time”. So now I feel pretty safe!

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        It sounds like it’s very much *not* the exception though. If OP wants to try to continue traveling I feel like realistically their only two options are to either keep doing it and stop talking about it and accept whatever risks come with that, or talk to their boss and tell them this flexibility was a significant reason that you took the job and if there was any kind of compromise.

        How to proceed may depend on the whys behind the policy. If it’s about potentially sensitive information, then maybe you agree to stop working in coffee shops and to make sure any friends you stay with have a place you can shut yourself in for privacy. If it’s about tax issues maybe you can research various state tax laws and make sure not to visit the places where working there for even a day or two would cause an issue.

        It’s certainly possible–especially if you’ve been talking about it and received no objection–that your direct supervisor cares much less than HR, and might be willing to work with you.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is what people do at my workplace and it’s almost always fine – and if it’s not we talk about options. We’ll always do our best to at least meet people halfway as long as they’re above board about it.

    3. Katie*

      Just because a manager is okay with it, doesn’t mean their isn’t a legitimate business reason why it shouldn’t be done (as explained in the answer). Managers are just as dumb about laws often times.

      1. Oh, the Totality*

        We are! One of my employees was working remotely the day of the eclipse. I assumed they were at home; when I found out they were on the road, heading to another state, it didn’t bother me much, bc I hadn’t been able to tell (they were on Teams and accessing our systems from the passenger seat, with someone else driving). It didn’t even occur to me to think about whether our employer allowed them to work in another state.

        I don’t think it applies here, bc we have someone else who works in that state with no problem, but if they had gone south instead of east it might have technically been an issue.

        1. C*

          Eh, that seems pretty extreme. Can you really focus on work while in the passenger seat traveling to the eclipse? Seems like they should have taken leave.

          1. Laura*

            Given how bad traffic was when we did our eclipse trip, I could absolutely have gotten work done while we were crawling along at 1 mph (if it wasn’t for those pesky kids in the back seat demanding to know how much longer it would take).

          2. Oh, the Totality*

            If I’d known they were going to do it, I would have recommended that… but as it was, they were present enough on Teams and in our support ticket system that I didn’t notice until they started posting photos. By that time, those of us who were in the office were also outside watching the eclipse. :-) I figure for a once-every-20-years event it was OK.

        2. The Starsong Princess*

          Reminds me of when I told a guy that he could work remotely while his son had a baseball tournament. Foolush me, I that meant he would work from his hotel room. No, to him, it meant he would take calls from his car with no internet access and could I hurry up because the next game was starting. He no longer works for our company.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Nevertheless, they’re in charge. If you find it frustrating, you either need to make your peace with it or find another job. Companies can be stricter than the law necessarily requires them to be so they’re not accidentally put in difficult situations or so people don’t take advantage.

        1. Testing*

          Nope, there is a third option beyond “making your peace with it” or “finding another job”. Its “raising the issue and trying to get the company to change its policies”.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          There is the possibility of compromise or accommodation; as long as it isn’t actually a legal or taxation concern.

      3. Amy*

        For the average employee, though, “did my manager approve this?” is a good litmus test of whether they can do something. I’m not an expert on tax law or business nexus requirements. My manager isn’t either. I’m trusting my manager to know policy, and my manager is trusting our policy makers to have checked with experts when drafting our policies. If I share my plans with my manager, and he approves, then I’ve done my due diligence.

        1. Sneaky Squirrel*

          The number of times I’ve seen someone “trust their manager to know the policy” and have that blow up in their face is… a lot, unfortunately. Managers aren’t really given the super extra special training on policy manual and employment laws when becoming manager. Most employers expect their staff to know any employment policies regardless of hierarchy. Arm yourself by figuring out the company’s policies directly first and then get your manager’s approval. Many employers have a policy manual published electronically and payroll may have information as well.

          1. MaxPower*

            I used to work HR at a company where I developed a specific annual policy training for all managers, AND I created an annotated version of the employee handbook for managers with specifics on how to use various policies as a manager. Still the number of times that a manager just straight up claimed not to know we had a written policy or what it said was jaw dropping. They literally had a binder on their desk with the policy in it. I could see it sitting there when I went to talk to them.

          2. That's a dumb name*

            Second the suggestion that OP ask what prompted the reminder.
            Also second: you can get a VPN.

            If it has anything to do with state taxes in another state, I would want to know:
            How many days, exactly? 100? 149?
            and Chapter and verse on where to find that regulation.
            There are many companies who make rules based on a belief that the law says something is does not say. [the ask a 4 year old where babies come from problem]
            (the answer is, of course, From Michelin Tires – but I digress)

            But to fly under the radar, I would probably find out that info on my own, and stick with asking what prompted the reminder; it might be that Melinda and John work from Starbucks.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Companies can and will make rules that are stricter than the law so they don’t have to have this time-consuming conversation with everyone. It’s your job to adhere to that rule or find something else.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Or look into why the rule is in place and inquire about exceptions and accommodations.

                Yes, once you have done so and it’s clear they are being absolute, regardless of the reason, you have to follow the rule, but if you inquire, and their reason is “We don’t want people doing private business with confidential information in the middle of Starbucks, and someone tried that” they might still make an exception for “I am pet sitting for a week and it will be easier if I can work from their house, which will be just as private as my own, instead of driving between two residences.”

              2. The Other Virginia*

                Exactly. Companies can make whatever policies they want as long as they are stringent enough to comply with the law and as long as they aren’t discriminatory in any way. You don’t have to agree with them. You can think they’re too strict or not strict enough or you can think they’re just stupid. But you still have to abide by them or find somewhere else to work. As someone who works in HR and develops policy, it’s sometimes easier to go broad enough that you move out of the grey area. The grey area is where a lot of time and energy is is wasted when it comes to interpreting policy; people want to argue every nuance and it’s exhausting.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          For things involving tax laws and employment laws, “my manager said it’s okay” doesn’t actually shield you from the consequences, so I’d check with HR, and if your company doesn’t have HR, I’d assume that working out of state is not allowed. This particular issue is tricky, because it’s a complete shock to a lot of people (including managers) that working while visiting relatives one state over isn’t a trivial request, but something that could cost your employer a lot of money.

          1. Freya*

            This. The payroll tax rules in Australia are… interesting… If I stand on the roof of my house, I can see the border between the state I live in and the next state over, and each state has a different site to lodge your payroll tax within that state.

            Which state you, the employer, have to lodge in with regards to a particular employee depends on a set of rules where if you meet one test, you ignore everything below it in the list.
            1) Work was done all in one state in that month = the one state is where you lodge
            2) Work done in multiple states, then use the employee’s principle place of residence on the last day of that month, as long as that is in Australia
            3) if 2 doesn’t help, then the employer’s ABN address or principle place of business, as long as that is in Australia
            4) if that doesn’t help, then where the largest portion of wages is paid or payable in Australia
            5) if that doesn’t help, then where the employee’s work was mainly performed, as long as that is in Australia
            6) if the employee was working overseas for 6mo continuously then no Australian payroll tax applies until they get back into Australia

            This can lead to a ‘fun’ situation where an employee would normally be working in the ACT, but because they worked for a week in QLD, then that month their employer has to pay payroll tax in NSW where they live.

            1. Basketcase*

              oh my word, I hadn’t realized you had that issue there!
              so glad we don’t here in NZ.
              although my workplace has a policy that you can remote work anywhere in the country. if you want to work overseas? we need to set you up completely differently and you need super high level approval

          2. Jake*

            I assume when someone says “if my manager says it’s okay, I’ve done my due diligence” what that means is that that’s where their responsibility for the consequences end. The company may end up paying payroll taxes, the manager might need to be retrained or let go, there are other consequences, but none of those are the employee’s responsibility. If they ask their manager, they are allowed to believe the manager’s answer.

            1. Crap Game*

              Allowed, sure. But that doesn’t necessarily shield you from consequences. You and the manager could be let go for costing the company money. Know the worker protections in your location, and if you’re at will, don’t expect “the manager said ok!” to count for much.

      4. Jess*

        Yes. Working in California can cause serious issues for employers if they are blind sided by it. Serious laws and tax liability and strict rules on breaks, OT pay, hours worked in a day etc. if I were OP I would not try and circumvent this no matter what state. They may already know she is doing it, among others, and this may be the reason for the meeting. It’s very easy for IT to see exactly where you are logging on. If it were me, from this point forward, I’d work from actual home.

      5. Cicely*

        Not realizing something isn’t being “dumb.” It’s just, ya know, not realizing something.

        1. Lexie*

          Yep. You don’t know what you don’t know. Unfortunately what you don’t know can still turn around and bite you in the rear.

          1. GythaOgden*

            You should probably make sure you’re as up to date on policy as possible, particularly just as you’re about to do something that might trigger the issue.

    4. Felix*

      OP should definitely discuss this with their manager. It is possible something specific prompted Lucinda to write this (ie – people clearly not being in a work appropriate environment, like taking calls while running errands, or “vacationing” while doing the bare minimum for work). Policies can have exceptions, and OP should at least confirm whether or not they can get one.
      That being said, Allison does raise legitimate business reasons why the company would want this policy to be universal.

      1. Jenzee*

        It’s very possible that Lucinda’s message is aimed squarely at the OP because someone already spoke up about it!

      2. Sciencer*

        That was my first thought too – this reads so much like a mass email that should have been a targeted conversation with one or more specific people who are behaving in a problematic way. OP should talk to their manager before losing sleep over this.

        1. JM60*

          It’s possible that there was a targeted conversation with a specific person or persons in question, but that they figured it would be best to also remind others of the policy in case it’s a wider problem.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Also it’s something where a blanket, consistent rule is easier to implement and doesn’t take time away from more important matters that individual discussions would take. Having clear guidelines also means that the discretion managers can show can’t be misconstrued as discriminatory etc.

    5. Beth*

      I work remotely at an employer who has no restrictions on work location. We have policies around security for your internet connection. We have policies about availability during standard work hours. But we don’t have any specific policies around where you can work from.

      I work from friends and family members’ houses pretty often. If I’m in my home state and confident in the network security of the place I’m working, I don’t see a need to inform anyone. I also work remotely from other states sometimes. The trips are usually a week or less, and my manager knows about them in advance. Both of these are common at my company, and so far, I’ve never heard of anyone having to deal with tax or business repercussions.

      If we started limiting work from out-of-state, I’d be disappointed–it would make visiting family harder–but I’d understand. Just because we’ve never encountered business or tax issues so far doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, and it makes sense to avoid that if we see it coming. But if my company tried to tell me that I had to be physically at home during work hours, I would have some feelings about that. Assuming I’m following the existing security policy, I don’t see a business case to justify that. It would feel like my employer didn’t trust me to do my job while at another location, and given our culture (which usually focuses way more on output than butts-in-seats time), that would feel very micromanage-y to me.

    6. Lea*

      We do this in my office sometimes, a coworker has asked if it’s cool if they work from
      Wherever for a couple days.

      But honestly if the answer was no they would probably just take leave?

      Also we travel for work and work out of town on those days so I’m curious how that applies with tax laws? Nobody had ever mentioned it as an issue

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        Good catch, Lea. ☆☆☆☆☆

        (just because California/ Massachusetts/ etc asserts a right to tax you, doesn’t mean they actually have that right).

      2. Rosemary*

        Yeah the whole tax law thing seems like it is something that would be so hard to enforce. Pre-pandemic I traveled a ton for work. Never was this discussed or was a concern. Ever. I cannot imagine your run of the mill business keeping track of this. I did read somewhere that these rules really are aimed towards super high earners – think NBA players – they probably earn more playing a single game in say Illinois than most people earn in a year. So in that sense I can understand the state wanting some of that tax. But Average Joe employee? Juice ain’t worth the squeeze.

        1. Manzanita*

          It’s definitely a thing that other states tax you for working in the state, even for just a few days, and regardless of the amount you are paid. My husband is in the emergency field and gets called out for 2-week stints. We’ve had to file state taxes for New Mexico and Oregon so far, earning less than 10k in either state.
          Makes me glad we live in a state without income tax!

      3. works with realtors*

        From my knowledge, the amount of time working outside of your approved business location is in terms of consecutive weeks, not days.

        1. MeanieNini*

          This is not correct. Every state has different requirements on when income and payroll taxes are required to be paid to the state. There are usually some exceptions like for conferences and things like that, but it’s still state specific.

    7. TPS Reporter*

      Putting aside tax implications, it could be that the company doesn’t think that the workforce as a whole can be trusted to be as diligent as OP is about working within the time zone, being available, having a quiet place for meetings. It’s easier for them to put out a blanket statement- everyone works at home.

      However, as a manager I do sometimes have arrangements with certain very trusted employees who demonstrate a real need for some exceptions. Exceptions that I know I can give and that wouldn’t do something like have tax implications. If the general worry is about the work getting done, I personally as a manager feel like I have discretion to make exception decisions. This is not true for all companies and all managers but OP’s could be more flexible.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. I’d also see it as the manager simply not having time or energy to police as many different set ups as they have reports. It’s like some other blanket rules — it’s not necessarily like you’re treating people like children, you’re just saying ‘micromanaging this for everyone I oversee would be too much work for too little gain, so here’s my general expectations.’

        I’ve moderated forums before and most of our rules were like this — we’ve chosen to have the rule because it would be impractical to police and litigate every single post and make judgements on a case by case basis; it’s simpler just to set firm and consistent boundaries.

    8. Work from Mars*

      This. Last thanksgiving I got the OK to work from my Dad’s place to save on PTO. Giving your leadership a heads up saves the headache of surprises. Since I am IT I am asked if we can work from X location. Our response is “If it is china, Russia, Pakistan or Iran your department head has to submit the request to the security team for an exception to be able to log in there, anywhere else is between you and your department leadership.”

      I still couldn’t get over the guy who thought it was a good idea to work from a cruise ship without authorization and got in trouble because the cruise lines internet was spotty far from land.

  3. wfhfanboy*

    I wonder if you could also discuss with your direct supervisor the option of still occasionally working from other places (e.g. work from Texas for the weekend but have it be approved). Then the policy would limit but not eliminate your flexibility. But it depends on why the policy is in place. If it’s security maybe you can get a VPN, but if it’s taxes…perhaps there’s no compromising. Might also just be nice to get clarity from your supervisor on what prompted the policy and the reminder.

    1. Tio*

      I got an accommodation from my employer to work from Florida while my mom had knee surgery, but 1. we already had businesses in Florida and 2. I did not exceed the amount of days that would require me to pay tax to Florida, so it wasn’t much of an issue. So it’s definitely possible to get exceptions made, but I don’t think they’re going to make too many for going to visit your brother to see his dog or anything non-urgent (but they might!)

      1. Never Boring*

        I worked remotely from NY for up to 10 days at a time during what ended up being my dad’s final illness. He was a retired IT professional and I was working from his home, so network security wasn’t an issue. My employer has an office in NY. My other option was to take FMLA leave while nobody else existed to do my job. My HR was still weird about the whole thing.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, it’d be worth getting further clarification from your direct supervisor on what the actual policy is, if you haven’t seen it or discussed it before. If your company has this policy, they should have spelled it out for you when you were hired. If it’s a new policy, they should go over it in a meeting with everyone so people can ask questions about it and get clarification, they shouldn’t have just had Lucinda send an email about it.

  4. ConventionAdjacent*

    My workplace allows us to work from home one day each week. HR has shared our remote work policy and highlighted the potential tax implications as a reason to not work, say, from New York if we’re there for a long weekend. Plus, they highlighted the potential for issues arising should there be some sort of injury or company equipment being damaged. There is more of an umbrella covering us when we’re physically at our homes than if we’re somewhere not at home and not at the office.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      But there are no tax implications if you have to attend a weeklong conference out of state. I don’t think this is as serious an issue as HR is making it out to be – it feels like a control mechanism without much of a reason behind it (my least favorite kind of rule).

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Well, there are. But it’s typically let slide. Now that we’ve reached such a high concentration of people working from multiple places, it’s being let slide a lot less.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Which is to say, you’re right, but the entity exercising that control is the IRS not the individual employer.

          1. RCB*

            The IRS doesn’t care, your federal taxes are the same regardless of where you work, it’s the states that are trying to collect extra state income and sales taxes that are the issue, and they are the ones that determine state residency, not the IRS.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I would actually like to see Federal leadership on this issue, which clearly seems to be an interstate commerce type thing to me. There should be one standard of what makes a business nexus in a state, and places trying to make “one day of work, including holding a conference here” should be prohibited from doing that in my opinion. It’s basically a speed trap situation.

              1. Helewise*

                I was just thinking that it feels like this should fall under the interstate commerce clause. I don’t know if it does, but it seems like it should.

              2. Jenzee*

                Hear hear. This is one of those @#$% federalism situations that makes me shake my fist. It’s the same country!

              3. MaxPower*

                Why though? States don’t need to have any state taxes at all, and if they do have taxes, they get to decide when/how they apply. The feds don’t have anything to do with it.

              4. Picard*

                Not to get to political here, but that is one of the things that you should consider when voting. One party is (theoretically anyway) very pro state rights and one is very pro federal government rights. Vote accordingly. shrug.

                1. BatManDan*

                  If you apply consistent logic, taxation is theft. So, you can always vote for a/the party that believes we should do away with taxes altogether.

              5. MCMonkeyBean*

                I think for a lot of these states they mostly want to have rules like that for big dollar things like a basketball championship game or a huge concert–if someone is earning like huge amounts of money in a single day in their state it’s reasonable for them to want their cut of that.

                I do agree that as more and more people work remotely–and maybe they even want to encourage the idea of working tourism–it would be nice if the states could implement some kind of dollar threshold to help facilitate this kind of flexibility.

          2. HB*

            No – IRS has nothing to do with it. These are state law questions. That’s a big part of the reason why it’s such a sticky issue. Different states have different nexus thresholds, and different methods for income allocation.

      2. Managing While Female*

        There are more reasons to not allow employees to work places other than their home than just tax implications. We’re not allowed to work outside our home at my company due to (very legitimate) information security reasons.

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Us too. We do have some carefully cordoned off WFH but there are whole pages in our contracts about both digital and physical limitations on where work can be done and where data can be viewed or stored.

        2. CityMouse*

          I’m allowed to input alternate worksites but it must be a place with secure wifi (my parents house is okay, coffee shop is not).

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            If I were a spy/hacker type, you can bet I’d spend most of my time hanging around a big business’s surrounding coffee shops and cafes. After some of the stuff I’ve seen people openly watching in public I could probably snag the nuclear launch codes within a month.

            1. BatManDan*

              15 years ago, I was told by a former federal inspector turned consultant (can’t remember if it was the retired FBI agent, or the retired USPS inspector), that if you are in a coffee shop and see 10 laptops open, 6 of them are “sniffing” your data.

          2. Admin of Sys*

            This – and I wonder if the OP would be able to have that exception as well? I WF not-my-home quite a bit, because I often spend a week or two living at my Mom’s to help her out. But that’s another location with a secure vetted environment that I have high speed internet at. Often times the “must be at home” means “don’t be at a public coffee shop” and is just worded vaguely.

        3. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

          Workman’s comp and OSHA, too. We had an employee who worked from all over, digital nomad style, but within the same state, with her manager’s blessing. (It was California, so, lots of state to nomad around.) One place she was working from was a beachfront AirB&B and she was sitting on a porch swing with laptop on lap and the swing broke, injuring her not severely but significantly. It ended up being a workman’s comp claim because she was injured while working, plus Cal-OSHA don’t play when it comes to workplace injuries, so now remote workers have to photograph their workspaces and get them approved. You can still work from elsewhere but you have to get each workspace approved, which means that “pick up and go wherever” isn’t as much of a thing.

          1. Jiminy Cricket*

            The pictures of my desk … my couch … my cozy chair … my deck … my bed. I pity the safety team on this one.

            1. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

              They would tell you not to work from any of those household locations if they weren’t up to OSHA standards, in this case. You could certainly do it anyway, but it’s made clear that you are not permitted to and there are consequences if you get caught.

              Lots of places skirt OSHA until they run into a problem and then tighten up, it’s the same thing.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                I’m fairly sure that our couch is more OSHA compliant than my usual kitchen chair with my laptop, when it comes to it – I know which one I hurt to stand up from more (For Reasons my desk and office chair have been out of commission for a while). But thankfully I don’t work from home.

          2. JFC*

            That could happen at her own home, too, so I don’t understand why workers comp would be different. Also, there’s really nothing to stop people from taking photos of at-home desks or workspaces and then using another space entirely for work.

            1. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

              Sure, you can get around it. You can get around a lot of things at work by lying about them. But at that point, having made it a policy with a process and warned you of the requirements, you could get fired for it. Kind of like how you can do all kinds of things you aren’t supposed to on a work device, but if you do it knowing you shouldn’t and get caught at it, there are consequences, and at that point the employee knows they’re taking a risk.

              It’s made clear during the process that sitting on a porch swing at your own house while working is also not okay for safety reasons.

              1. Freya*

                My workplace’s WFH policy (which you have to sign off on before you’re allowed to WFH) has conditions that our designated workspace has to be reasonably safe and free from hazards both to us and to the equipment we use. Our workspace must meet OH&S standards, and if we do not have the furniture to make that happen then our workplace will provide the required chair etc. No work is to be performed outside the designated workspace, and any injuries occurring outside the designated workspace or outside paid working hours is explicitly not covered by work’s insurances.

          3. Rosemary*

            How did this become a workers comp issue? Did she file a claim? I am sorry, but if I fall out of my desk chair or trip on my way to the bathroom while working from home it would not occur to me to claim “work injury”.

            1. Colin Watson*

              It wouldn’t occur to me either, but given how dysfunctional US health care is, maybe she had no other real choice.

              1. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

                Yes, her insurance company asked about it when she filed the claim. She told the truth (which I would have done too—I’m not lying to my insurance company to protect my employer either, lol), and from there it became a workman’s comp issue because the insurer said it wasn’t their responsibility.

                She actually apologized to us for making it into an issue but I can’t see she had much of a choice.

            2. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

              Her health insurance company asked how it happened and whether she was working, and she told the truth. Her insurance company were the ones who took it to our employer at that point, since like all insurance companies they didn’t want to pay it if they didn’t have to.

              1. Hillary*

                agreed, every Dr appointment I make, if not for a routine physical, they ask if I had a workplace injury. I (CA, government) also ask employees to file workplace injury reports for everything, even if they aren’t going to claim WC. they are two different processes, and the reports filed “for file only” tell me about things like tripping hazards, common situations, and if I need to get someone into a workplace to look at cords under desks, or buy a site a new stepladder. When our agency had to institute telework policies, this was the most discussion, what agency was responsible for. The policy now just says that we agree (proactive checkbox) that our telework workplace is safe from hazards. No photo, but we have proactively assessed it, wherever it is.

          4. Anax*

            Yep, that’s the reason I’ve been given for “please, just work in your house or another approved location”, even before covid.

      3. Haven’t picked a username yet*

        Training and working are generally considered differently by states. And a conference is likely considered a training adjacent activity.

        I used to deliver risk training at various sites. I work in one state and would got to NJ a few times a year to train employees. If I worked even one day in NJ I had to pay NJ state taxes, but if I was training that didn’t apply. Since this was all internal to the company I would get a questionnaire for every travel booked to other states to track why I was in that state and what kind of work.

        Some states are cut throat about working/taking meetings.

      4. Janeway, Her Coffee In Hand*

        You make a good point. Does anyone know if there are tax implications to employees who often travel to work in other states for conferences? I’ve definitely not heard of that before.

        1. Adam*

          Unfortunately, every part of the answer to that is “it depends”. It depends on which state, it depends on whether the conferences are mainly talks or mainly meetings, it depends on if you routinely take an hour between sessions to do work, it all depends. Part of the reason lots of people just don’t mention it and hope nobody asks any questions.

        2. Tempest*

          Like the commenter above said, it depends on the state. Also, it depends on what specifically is happening at the conference, and how many days it is, and other specifics that can vary by state.

      5. Java*

        Conferences fall under a different category of work than the regular day to day so it’s not the same.
        The company I work for got burned once when someone signed a contract in the “wrong” location and it ended up being a big deal.
        It’s absolutely about mitigating risk and preventing huge headaches, not about just controlling people for the sake of controlling them.

      6. Doreen*

        Another issue I think , is that conferences etc. aren’t a regular thing. But allowing the OP to work from Texas this week and California next week is going to run into problems – it’s possible to have a policy where “work from home” means “work from home and no where else” or one that allows work anywhere in the state or one that allows occasional exceptions based on special circumstances but it’s going to be almost impossible to craft one where the OP can work from any other state when she travels for the weekend but keeps me from working in NY every Monday when my office and home are in PA. And most employers are going to want to prohibit that “one day a week” because if there is a time or dollar threshold for taxes or having a workers comp policy , that one day a week will exceed the threshold.

        1. Allonge*

          Also, in the majority of cases the employer is aware that someone goes to attend a conference on work time. If there would be a tax or security implication, it’s all above board almost by definition.

      7. MeanieNini*

        A lot of states have exceptions to the tax rules specifically for employees attending conferences in those states so the taxes do not become an issue. The same exceptions likely do not exist for someone coming to the state to visit for non-work related issues and then working while there.

    2. Harried HR*

      Some states like Minnesota indicate State Income Taxes are due if an employee works in their state for 1 day !! Most other states are more reasonable 30, 60, 90+ days however certain Cities (Denver, San Francisco etc) have requirements that are different from the State they are located in. It’s probably fine if you work for a large employer that has a nexus in all 50 states or at least the lower 48, but could cause some serious Tax & Liability issues for smaller employers.

        1. Erin*

          Is that why my taxes are always like “are you now or have you ever been someone who works in Yonkers?”

          1. Ally McBeal*

            It sure is! I lived in NYC for a long time and that question always made me chuckle.

      1. Neil Strickland*

        I find this very interesting! I used to live iu Ottawa, Canada and worked as a temporary help worker – in 2022 I was on a short-term contract and had to work from home but due to circumstances beyond my control the family home had to be listed for sale. On days when the real estate agent came to show the home, I had to work elsewhere – the client and the employment agency had no say in it. Also, during the contract, I went on vacation in Nova Sc0tia but arranged to work from the home where I was staying during my vacation – as long as I put in my hours, it didn’t matter where I was and there were no tax implications at all.

    3. ferrina*

      The person that does the tax set ups at my company is also the person who works from the most states! :D

      I get the impression that most states in the U.S. don’t layer on any tax implications if you are just there for a few days (otherwise business travel would never happen). The threshold can be different for different states, but it’s not enough that our particular company cares if you work from a different state for a week or so. Different countries are a whole different kettle of fish- those have to be approved in advance and are often denied if there is no business reason (so no checking email on international vacations)

      1. ferrina*

        Correction: My assumptions were incorrect. Some states do require taxes paid if you work for even one day. Commentor Ann O’Nemity shared a great breakdown of what each state requires.

  5. it's gonna be bye bye bye... oh, wrong song*

    It’s very weird that some states can say it’s as little as one day to trigger the obligations! You’d think there’d be a few days minimum. One day seems ridiculous.

    1. Observer*


      But I can’t blame the employer for not wanting to tangle with this.

    2. Lacey*

      Yeah, that surprised me! Are people unable to do client meetings or go to conferences in those states without it triggering a tax nexus? That’s wild!

      1. Grading at a conference*

        Just going to a work conference is … work in the state. Do these places have conference exemptions? Does this mean people can’t check their email from them? I am an academic, and it’s untenable not to be able to go to conferences and also do some other work there. Academic is full of complications actually. Are academics who study pop culture not allowed to be exposed to it in these states? Obviously that is not the intent and is not feasible to enforce, but it shows how truly absurd the whole set-up is.

        1. Java*

          IME the kind of work can matter. Ex. A conference is no biggie, but signing certain kinds of legal documentation can trigger issues.
          My company has a policy that you’re not allowed to sign anything if you’re not in the location of the company.
          It’s such a weird minefield to navigate, I absolutely understand why a company would have a blanket wfh location policy rather than get into the nitty gritty.

          1. Just moi*

            Ditto here! Our execs know that they can’t sign anything outside of the state where corporate is located.

        2. Ess Ess*

          Conferences are considered training and have different rules about taxation than doing actual work products for your company.

          1. Rosemary*

            But what if you are checking your work email or taking work calls during breaks or at night in your hotel room? It all seems so ridiculous. I used to travel for work all the time (doing actual work – market research, so I was in several different states every month doing focus groups and such) and never ever ever did this tax thing come up.

          2. Parakeet*

            Hmm, but what if one of you’re one of the people running the conference? My team runs a conference each year – so the conference itself is a work product – and I’ve never heard of traveling to staff it being an issue. Maybe the rules are different in some way for nonprofits?

        3. The paperwork sucks*

          Chiming in from an academic publisher—so, a business under the umbrella of a state/private university (I’ve worked at both). Let me tell you, the amount of paperwork and tax separating and filing required to sell books at an academic conference is INSANE. It’s absolutely something we have to take seriously even though it’s a massive headache, or university and state/federal auditors would shut us down in a heartbeat.

      2. Accountant (but please don't make me deal with taxes)*

        Those are generally considered sales activities and have an exception, so role within a company also is a factor in if someone can. My company is almost 100% remote and has set the policy that employees can work somewhere other than home for up to weeks with manager approval, but we also have nexus already in almost every state and a large number of different countries as well so it wouldn’t trigger additional ones for us. A company with a nexus in just 1 state could end up with huge tax issues.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Yeah, I live in a much smaller country (and honestly have no idea how laws about the Northern border work, though there are businesses the border runs right through) so it’s not really something I’ve thought too much about, but if I were asked to guess, I’d probably have guessed something like “the equivalent of 3 months/a quarter of the working days in a year?”

    4. Lurker*

      It can also depend on what type of work you’re doing. Like for nonprofits, if you are in another state soliciting contributions you might have to then register with that state and file tax returns there.

      Another example of why employers might care about where your working is that labor laws vary by state. For example, in California I think if you work more than 8 hours in a day that qualifies as overtime (for non-exempt), but in NY OT starts if you work more than 40 hours in a work week.

      1. Lurker*

        *I should clarify in the first paragraph “you” means the nonprofit org might have to register/file state taxes there. But the employee might have to pay income tax there, too.

      1. I Do Flips*

        I worked for an NHL team and almost always had to travel with them. The number of state tax returns I had to do…….grrrrrr. And I wasn’t getting paid spectacularly, either.

    5. PotatoRock*

      That stood out to me too! I assume there’s some kind of exception for going to a conference or something? Or do people just know, and not hold events there?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Some of the 1-day states are very popular conference destinations (like New York), so no, people don’t avoid them. There are a couple of different complications – some states require the employee to pay income tax from day 1, but don’t require the employer to withhold from day 1. Some states also impose their own wage, hour, and other benefit laws from day 1. Some states distinguish between an employee traveling for work purposes vs personal travel during which they may do some work. Others don’t.

        This is one of the reasons many employers use integrated travel / expense reporting platforms – they can keep track of these requirements. I’m sure a lot of remote work flies under the radar – but there is risk to doing that.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          So wait – there are states where, if my employer sends me to a conference, *I as an individual* need to pay state income tax there? Do I get to deduct that day from paying state income tax in my home state, or so I get double taxes for that day?

          1. Glenn*

            There are maybe states where you would technically be required to do that (I’m not totally sure). But if so, people don’t actually do it. As we see in this thread, almost nobody is even aware of the possibility.

            1. Rosemary*

              Can you imagine the extra work that would require for that state’s tax department? Seriously if every single person who took a work trip (or WFH next to their mom’s hospital bed) filed a tax return…yikes.

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      23 states impose income tax on the first day nonresidents work in their state! 23!

      18 states impose income taxes after some threshold is met; varies by state. Only 9 do not impose income taxes for business travelers.

      1. MaxPower*

        Well, it’s not really that the other 9 don’t tax business travelers, it’s that they don’t have income taxes on earned income (or at all). So their lack of taxation isn’t really an exemption, it’s their norm.

      2. Pet dragonfly*

        Hi Ann, can you (or anyone else) direct me to a list of which states have which laws? I swear I tried via Google but the results all lacked one or more of the following elements: 1) trustworthy, 2) current, 3) simple to understand.
        Thank you!!!

          1. Yikes On Bikes*

            I’ve definitely gone to conferences in some of these states (one just last year) and it’s never come up. I work for a large organization that is generally pretty on top of HR/Finance stuff…but now I’m afraid to ask about the implications because I’d hate to be taxed (or have anyone else taxed) because of this!

            1. Tio*

              Conferences are generally not considered working, but training, and have exemptions.

          2. doreen*

            That’s a good list – but even those states that impose tax the first day probably still have a dollar threshold to file a return at all , so most people won’t actually have to file for one day . I know NY and NJ have dollar thresholds – in NY , you must earn at least $3100 (depends on filing status – might be up to $16K) to be required to file a tax return , which most people will not reach in a day or two.

            1. Rosemary*

              Ok THIS makes more sense. So it is not every single junior analyst who attends a client meeting in NY are having to pay taxes in NY. (But that still seems a bit on the low side)

              1. doreen*

                In NY and NJ , you don’t have to file unless you make more than the standard deduction you are entitled to so that $3100 in NY is the point where a tax return is required for someone filing as single who can be claimed on another person’s return. If you can’t be claimed on someone else’s return or are filing as married, it’s higher.

    7. Cold and Tired*

      It surprised me too until, as a remote worker, I took one 4 day business trip to New York City and had to file New York taxes for the trip because my employer reported it to NY. This isn’t the case for our employees that aren’t remote, so clearly it’s something with my employment status that makes it this way for me. Definitely very annoying.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yep, super annoying. This is one of the reasons I actively discourage my team from working on vacation. I learned that can open a can of worms with taxes and compliance. (Also, work life balance! Unplug!)

    8. DaniCalifornia*

      I learned working for a CPA that NFL players get taxed in each state (that has state income tax) they play in while traveling. I thought that sucks since they are usually only “working” the 1 day.

      1. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

        I think (but do not know for sure) that professional athletes and entertainers are part of why these laws are popular. States want their cut from Taylor Swift or whoever when they roll into town.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        They get paid enough I’m not too sympathetic. They also get paid enough not to have to do their own taxes. (And they’re probably why the one-day rules exist! I just wouldn’t have thought those rules would apply to normal people making normal salaries.)

        1. I Do Flips*

          As I mentioned above, I worked for an NHL team (many years ago). There are a huge number of people who travel with teams. Coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers, media relations, travel coordinators, it’s a really long list. A handful of those folks made good money, the rest of us did not. And we were still hit with many of the same tax implications, and I definitely didn’t have someone to do my taxes for me.

          Someone above noted NY kicked it at $3,100. I don’t recall what it was when I was doing this work, but I hit it every darn year. Three teams in New York state, I worked for another Eastern Conference team=I spent a lot of time in New York.

    9. Lady_Lessa*

      I vaguely remember (not being a big sports fan) that some states were trying to snag tax money from pro ball players who came to their state just to play a single game.

    10. doreen*

      One day doesn’t necessarily trigger every obligation. I really doubt that one employee being in a state for one day is going to create a sales tax nexus – but that doesn’t mean that 10 employees working one day a week from the same different state won’t. Income tax usually have either a dollar or days threshold, so that when my son worked for one day in NJ , he didn’t have to file a NJ return ( the threshold was around was about $10K). This is almost certainly why most people don’t need to worry about filing tax returns in other states for attending conferences while athletes and entertainers file tax returns for working a single day in a state.

      But what absolutely does get triggered on the first day are labor laws – let a non-exempt employee work a ten hour day on California and the employer will be liable for overtime for two hours even if the weekly total is under 40. An employer might not get caught for that particular one – but what about when the state A worker’s comp policy doesn’t cover an employee who is working for a day in state B ?

    11. Beth*

      I’m betting a lot of 1-5 day trips have historically flown under the radar for this kind of requirement. If you’re Beyonce and you have a concert in California, the state will definitely know about it and you’ll have to pay taxes. If you’re Steve from Accounting, who usually works in Nevada but logged in remotely for a few days from your Tahoe AirB&B, and your company doesn’t withhold CA taxes for you and you don’t proactively file CA taxes….who’s going to know? The odds of California chasing you down over that seem so slim.

    12. Immaterial*

      yeah but taxing company’s and people who aren’t actually your voters is an easy sell.

  6. CzechMate*

    Re tax compliance: this is especially true for employees who plan to work while in a foreign country. I’ve known individuals who have tried to work abroad during international travel/while visiting family and it can have big repercussions–I’ve even see some people put their employees on unpaid leave until they get back to the country in these instances.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ooof, yeah. I know of an instance where someone in my US-based employer worked out of a family member’s home in China for something like a month without telling anyone. They brought their laptop, which contained confidential information, there to work. Confidential information brought to China without permission…did not go over well.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        I’m fully remote but they’re very clear that you can’t work internationally without checking first, and most of the time the answer is going to be no. Early in the pandemic we had one coworker who moved to Brazil without clearing it and after that came out (and he came home), they got a lot more specific and clear about the policy.

    2. HA2*

      Yep. In my company, we deal with some confidential information, and the rule is none of it can be accessed, in any way, outside the US. Can’t bring a laptop with it out of the country, probably can’t even be on a zoom call if outside the country if someone in the US shares their screen with confidential info on it.

      1. CityMouse*

        You’re not even allowed to check company email from abroad at my job. My boss did it once and they froze her account.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Also work phones … which now can access email, teams, teams meetings.

        If you are out of the country, you cannot work.

        1. Freya*

          I’ve previously had to message a bunch of people to say “get your timesheets in on time this fortnight; if you get it in late, I’ll be overseas and won’t be able to process it or access the bank account until I get back!”

          On the plus side, that fortnight, everyone got their timesheet in on time, and they’ve been mostly pretty good since :-P

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My university upper IT department has laptops that people can check out if they’re going to China, etc.; we’re not allowed to take our own or the departmental tech.

      4. allathian*

        I work for the government in Finland and our data isn’t allowed to leave the EU/EEA.

    3. Medium Sized Manager*

      I moved to Canada before my transfer was finalized and ended up paying a tooon in personal taxes because of it. Luckily, my company is global so less of a concern on their end, but it was definitely a headache for me.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      In my old office, Puerto Rico was a popular vacation destination for many excellent reasons. One of them was that our systems thought we left the country and locked us out of email, teams, etc.

    5. NerdyKris*

      I’ve seen people go to the most ridiculous places and then complain that their connection isn’t working. Sir, you’re in an authoritarian dictatorship with a walled off internet. There’s nothing I can do to fix it. Even my international company only expects the VPN to work in countries they have a presence in.

      1. Orv*

        I’ve dealt with that too. It comes up a lot in academia, especially. I’ve occasionally said, “here’s a workaround that MIGHT help, but I can’t speculate on what laws you might be breaking in-country by using it.”

    6. Cold and Tired*

      Yep there are a lot of rules! I did a project in Canada where our entire team collectively could not work more than 180 days in Canada (or some other total) in any one year time span. Like, if a single person on a team of 50 worked a day in Canada, it counted against all of us. So no one was allowed to travel and work on unapproved days in Canada to avoid being hit with this.

      Meanwhile Switzerland is 8 days work before you need a visa, so I could go work once for 5 days visa free, but my colleagues who went every month needed visas.

      And on the flip side, while I was an expat in the UK for 2 years, I was getting my us income tax reduced based on paying UK taxes. But you have to be outside the US for 330 days within any 1 year time span to qualify otherwise you got hit with double taxes. So I had to submit a calendar with every country and state I was in all year every year to our tax partners so they could verify it when doing my uk and us taxes.

      So in summary, don’t mess with working outside your legal home country unless you have the proper visa and tax support and know all the rules. It can have enormous penalties if you screw up just for you financially on top of everything else.

    7. RegBarclay*

      I live on the US/Candian border and since my city is much bigger than the Canadian city on the other side, certain industries here have a fair number of Canadians that cross the border daily to work. I always wondered what happened during COVID when the border was closed. Sure, they eventually let the nurses cross to work in person but what about the admins, the accountants, IT people, etc who could work from home and couldn’t cross the border? Did both governments just agree to quietly ignore that a certain number of people were working from a foreign country now? Or were people fired?

    8. Katie Impact*

      Yep. Even as a freelancer in a field where it’s really normal for companies to hire people from multiple countries, we’re still limited to working from places where the third party that handles payroll actually knows how to pay us. (Even companies specializing in international payroll processing only cover a limited range of countries, and most of them are more limited than you’d probably guess).

  7. Observer*

    LW, this is a common requirement. And depending on the particulars – like what your company does, your particular job, and stuff like workers comp rules – this could be very reasonable (or not.)

  8. Lucy P*

    This is interesting and I find all of Alison’s points extremely valid.

    I’ve recently seen videos from a you-tuber who seems to promote that WFH means work wherever you want, including Bora Bora (or some place tropical). At the time, I’d never thought of the other possible ramifications.

    1. EngineeringFun*

      Yeah I agree with Alison’s advice. I have 2 homes in 2 states. If my employer cared about this I would just turn off my camera at my ski house.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Depending on your setup, if you’re logging in in anyway, they’ll be able to see your IP address and know if you’re in a different state.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            If your company allows it to be downloaded on your company laptop…

            1. Not my monkeys*

              If they don’t allow it on their laptop you can probably install it on something between their laptop and your router.

              1. The Other Virginia*

                Or instead of trying to dishonestly circumvent a policy, which at a lot of orgs (including mine) is a firable offense, maybe play by the rules or find another job that doesn’t have the same policy.

  9. Peanut Hamper*

    And this is one of the reasons that so many people are opposed to WFH, unfortunately. Yes, you need to work from your home, and not from (checks notes) an entirely different state.

    I mean, it’s right there in the name. I work from home and it has never occurred to me to take a vacation whenever I want and work from a hotel. If someone told LW that this was okay, or that this is what work from home means, then they got some really bad advice.

    1. tabloidtained*

      Work from home is a bit of a colloquialism, though, for “remote work.” Usually it means from “home,” but sometimes it means from a coworking space, or a library, or a coffee shop…

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes, and remote work is something people have been able to do while traveling for a long time. The confusion makes sense, and the laws haven’t caught up with the new norms.

      2. mango chiffon*

        I think the wording “work from home” only really came about when the pandemic happened and many of us were forced to work at home (and nowhere else because where were we going).

        1. Lady Danbury*

          I’ve been working from home (using that terminology) on and off for at least a decade before the pandemic. It’s definitely not new terminology.

      3. A Girl Named Fred*

        Even if it wasn’t a colloquialism, people’s interpretations of it will still differ. I’ve never read “work from home” and thought “work ONLY from home”, I’ve always figured the types of places you mentioned were totally fine. I probably would have sought permission if I was going to work while traveling rather than just “I can’t stand looking at my own four walls any more, I’ll go get a coffee and knock out some emails there for a change of scenery.”

        (Tangent, but hopefully someday I’ll WFH again and this conversation will be relevant to me once more. Alas, not yet.)

      4. The Other Virginia*

        And this is key. Occasionally working from a coffee shop, library, park etc. down the street for a change of scenery is totally different than regularly working from out of state or clear across the country.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          There are metro areas where your favorite coffee shop a few miles away may well be in another state. (These areas usually have reciprocal tax arrangements, but let’s not act like “out of state” is always a huge distance.)

          1. Freya*

            I can see the border between the state I live in and the next state over if I stand on the roof of my house. We regularly walk the dog over that border :-P

            1. GythaOgden*

              There used to a single house at the end of the road in my parents’ village which was in Hampshire rather than Berkshire. The whole village got services from Berkshire…except for that one house. No-one from Hampshire came out to service them (bins, etc).

              Luckily they actually built a new estate onto the end of that village in Hampshire, so the house did actually connect up with a bin service. But for a long time, well, sucks to be them.

      1. FL*

        Agreed… Prior to covid making remote work more common, my stereotypical view of remote work was like, a copywriter with their laptop at a cafe. It’s not weird to have it in your mind that remote work means you can choose your place of work.

        Now the LW is aware of the policy, she can decide whether that’s something she can adapt to or if she needs a job that’s more permissive about location. Or even would prefer office life to being stuck in the house all day every day (which is something I handle very well but not everybody is into)

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Nah, there are plenty of places where they don’t care where you are as long as you are getting your work done. My last two WFH jobs don’t care if I’m at home or staying with a friend in another state or at a coffee shop, and my last in-office job was fine with some people working remotely if they were traveling and needed to work a couple of days while they were gone. Now, some places do care for the reasons listed in AAM’s response (tax, security, etc) and in those cases it absolutely makes sense that they require employees to work from a secured location and only that secured location, but as I said in another comment above, you tell your employees that when you hire them and if it’s a new policy you don’t just email it to everyone, you spell it out in a meeting where people can ask questions about it.

      1. Mimmy*

        you tell your employees that when you hire them and if it’s a new policy you don’t just email it to everyone, you spell it out in a meeting where people can ask questions about it.

        I wonder if the LW was not made aware of this policy when they were first hired. It sounds like they took this job believing that the hybrid schedule would allow flexibility for traveling. If there is an employee handbook, the LW may want to check there in case they missed it.

      2. londonedit*

        Yep, my boss/employer doesn’t really care where you’re working remotely from, as long as you’re working! In the UK we don’t have all these issues about tax and working from different places – the whole country is under the same tax system so there’s no worry there. I sign in to a secure VPN when I’m working from home and it’s the same if I’m working from my sister’s house or whatever – I don’t work with anything that needs to be locked down security-wise so there’s no issue there. I think the only potential issue might be working from a completely different country, but if it was a one-off or an every-now-and-then I think it’d be fine (as opposed to literally moving to a different country).

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          Yes, I can work in any house in the country, but my employer is very specific about what work I can do on an unsecured network or in a public place – no logging into databases, no staff or client data on my screen, and no calls where I can be overheard, which takes out the majority of my work. Emails on a train while I’m travelling to a meeting at another office is about the limit of it. And one hundred percent not allowed to take any work equipment or attempt to access any work system including emails from outside the country.

    3. Roland*

      It’s not “right there in the name” in plenty of cases – in the 3 companies I’ve worked for remotely, they used the term “remote” in all official docs, never WFH. WFH is just faster to type because it’s 3 letters. And in all of them, it was normal for someone to zoom in from other states, and occasionally other countries if cleared with management.

      Until someone does a survey, all we’re gonna have are anecdotes from people on their individual experiences which aren’t worth much. My experience is anecdotal and so is yours.

      1. Bast*

        Agreed- in plenty of cases, WFH just means “working anywhere that is not the office” whether that is your home, the library, friend’s house, etc. My Old Job never cared much, as long as the work was getting done and you were available for your standard hours. Obviously, some companies DO care, but it isn’t “obvious” that WFH means always, quite literally working in YOUR home. I don’t think anything is obvious, and management should never take the approach that “this policy is obvious, they should have known.” It has been made clear now, but really wasn’t before.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Yeah, except LW specifically says “work from home”. So it is there for both LW and me.

      3. jasmine*

        Yup I worked at a company that allowed remote work and you could work internationally for up to three months if you wanted to (the limit was to avoid tax issues)

    4. Pounce de Lion*

      We call it “telework,” so there’s that. If I’m sitting in front of a screen all day, I don’t see how it matters where the chair is positioned (except of course for the legal reasons already stated). Studying a foreign language while teleworking in another country for a few months is my dream scenario and it would benefit my job too. I’m on the old side of GenX and the new flexibility has reinvigorated my interest in work.

    5. IngEmma*

      I mean, plenty of people are able to work from coffee shops etc. just because it’s sometimes referred to as WFH, I don’t think it necessarily follows that it’s OBVIOUS you couldn’t do what the OP is doing. That feels like a pretty literal and silly read of the situation.

      They’re not calling in from a sun lounger on a nudist beach holding a beer, for example.

      As it happens, they’re are actually good reasons you might not be able to ‘work from anywhere,’ as mentioned in Allison’s response. But it’s because of tax stuff, and maybe security risks (this one is industry/ job dependant and might not even apply.)

      By a similar token, I assume you’re not suggesting that stay at home parents who take their kids to the park are being misleading ?(You’re supposed to be parenting AT HOME! Not at the park!!!) ;)

    6. Alex*

      While it isn’t always the case that you can do this, plenty of people can and do, and their workplaces don’t care and/or encourage it. It is definitely not something you should assume *either way*.

    7. Beth*

      It’s usually called remote work, and there are plenty of companies that are actually willing to work with (varying amounts of) work from different locations! Depending on the specific company, remote work can mean:
      – Work from home
      – Work from a secure connection in your home state
      – Work from your home state (including maybe a coffee shop or other public space)
      – Work from any location in the US (maybe requiring advance approval)
      – work from any location (maybe requiring advance approval)
      – Work from anywhere, anytime

      I think the norm is in the middle of those options, with working from non-home locations generally being OK as long as it doesn’t cause a tax or security issue. But I know people working under policies that cross the entire spectrum. It’s not naive or wrong to think this is allowed–you just can’t assume every remote role will allow it, you have to figure out the specific company’s policy.

    8. not owen wilson*

      I saw a friend last weekend who works in a hybrid role and she was telling me how she’d go to amusement parks and Vegas and about the cruise she’s going on next week, and how she just needs to keep an eye on Teams in case anyone needs her and she has to do something quick!!! Yeah, no….. it was especially grating because I’m an engineer required to be on site every day (and my phone doesn’t even work on site, they block wifi and cell signal because it can interfere with some of our equipment). But sure, I’m glad you’re getting paid to ride roller coasters.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        I mean, that’s just skiving and she must know it isn’t in the spirit of the rules. Nothing to do with what the OP describes.

      2. Beth*

        My role is remote, my company doesn’t much care where I work from, and I get a lot of flexibility on how I spend my time. But what your friend is describing wouldn’t fly–my boss would absolutely notice my output dropping! Maybe she found a unicorn of a role that just doesn’t care if she does work, or maybe there’s more to the story than she’s telling you (a day on rollercoasters followed by working until 2am to get through her to do list would make more sense to me). But remote/hybrid jobs don’t usually let you get away with not doing work.

    9. DC 18*

      Your employer might have that rule, but if you’re working remotely it’s pretty common to work from places other than your home

    10. TheBunny*

      I’ve done it. But only with prior approval and in the state.

      I also keep it to key dates…like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as it does allow me more time with my family. But a random Tuesday? No.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      I think it would be pretty lazy management to rely on people inferring that “it’s in the name”. If it’s an important policy, be explicit about how and when to follow the policy. Luckily OP’s workplace has been explicit now, but I hope they bring it up during the interview in future. If someone is doing remote work it’s important they understand the set up.

    12. Peter the Bubblehead*

      I have a friend that used to live in NH. About 6 months prior to his move, he started a new WFH job. Upon selling his house, he moved to Italy for three months to attend a family wedding (near the end of the three months) and worked his regular M-F 9-5 job for a different Italian city every few days. After the wedding, he returned to the US and bought a house in Tennessee where he continues to work for the same company.
      Maybe it is because the work he does is internal to his company (nothing to do with sales or any customer-facing position) but he literally has the freedom to work from anywhere in the world with no issues about taxes or benefits as long as he’s logged into his job Mon-Fri 9-5 wherever the company HQ is located (I think, but am not sure, west coast US).
      So – depending on your employer – it can be done.

  10. Alex*

    I think it is worth clarifying exactly what they mean and whether or not there is ever any flexibility with the policy. Are they sending a reminder because people were trying to take calls while driving? Having confidential conversations in a busy cafe? Logging on from the beach in Bali and dropping their laptop in the water? You might find that actually they are trying to avoid X circumstance, but have flexibility with Y and Z.

    1. Roland*

      Yes, that was my first thought. Check with your manager, because this could have easily been directed at people calling from loud public spaces, not quiet home offices that happen to be in someone else’s home.

    2. Shutterdoula*

      I think “When you are working from home you need to be at your home and not anywhere else” is pretty darn clear. Nothing to clarify.

      1. Ahnon4Thisss*

        Agreed. I feel if they wanted to address the other things, they would have been clear about that. “When taking calls or meetings, you need to be in a quiet area. You absolutely should not be driving while attending video calls.”

    3. constant_craving*

      Yes, especially given the other things in the email, this seems entirely possible. Worth a conversation to see what, if any, flexibility exists.

    4. Bzh*

      this! I’ve seen issues where HR had taken an overly expensive view of potential issues brought up and unilaterally tried to create company policy. It’s a good idea to discuss the issue with your boss. The tax implications are real but perhaps being a bit overblown. People travel all the time for work. People also get asked to dial in to that really important meeting from vacation. Is that all disappearing?

  11. Decidedly Me*

    There are jobs where you can work from locations other than your home – some are remote within the state, country, or truly from anywhere. Being able to travel and work from where I’m at is really important to me – I specifically screen companies for this since it’s not the default or norm.

    1. Hazelnewt*

      This is the way to do it. If you don’t know for a fact that your company has their tax situation sorted in the state or country you’re in, don’t do your work there.

      Dodgy companies get away with breaking laws all the time; underpaying workers, breaking environmental laws, health and safety violations – but it’s vanishingly rare to get away with violating tax law. Even the most lax companies don’t want to go near it, let alone the kinds of places any of us are working for.

      1. Sloanicota*

        To be fair, most companies certainly do violate this rule all the time and are rarely caught. As stated above, attending a one-day meeting in another state may trigger the requirement. The issue is that most state tax agencies don’t have capacity to chase down attendee lists so companies generally get away with it, (and most employees don’t report that they’re actually working from their brother’s house in Texas or whatever).

        1. Anon for this*

          I worked for the YMCA as a swimming pool supervisor. I was on call 24/7 (unpaid, but that’s a whole other story) and thus if someone called me, I had to answer. I did this job in two separate states, but “worked” from probably 8 or 9 of them. If I was out of town and the lifeguard called out, I had to find another lifeguard to cover it, end of story. If I was out of town and had to teach a lifeguard training or CPR class when I got back, I had to answer all of the students’ questions and help them get their online learning set up. If I was out of town and the pool’s water pump exploded, I had to supervise the solution remotely. The same went for all of my bosses, who regularly traveled out of state and, in two situations, out of the country.

          The early morning lap swimmers do not care where you are, if the pool is not open when they turn up at 5 am they will have your head on a pike by lunchtime.

          I guarantee you, no one noticed or cared and the YMCA very much expected this of us.

  12. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    It’s going to vary from employer to employer.

    On the technical side, you don’t the internet connection outside your home. Your favorite coffee shop or friend’s home might not have WPA2/WPA3 passwords on their WiFi, or the firewall enabled or configured in compliance with the employer’s requirements, could have custom routing tables or ports forwarded…

    Emotionally, I come down squarely on the “work from anywhere” side of the argument, but the other side has legitimate concerns that merit honoring their requirements.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      What if the OP had their own hot spot that was secure that others couldnt access?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That is something that some places offer but it typically has to be a hotspot generated by a device they give you, not by say – your phone.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Even with that, it’s going to vary from company to company.

        At home, there’s an expectation of privacy that doesn’t exist in public or in a friend’s home. You could also more restricted in what hardware you can use (it’s easy to take the notebook itself, but an external monitor? Full keyboard?).

        I suppose it’s plausible you could have a cone of silence, Tardis for privacy, unlimited 5G hotspot with good signal strength, and a portable generator to carry with you.

        Even then, if you want their cheques, their rules still apply.

        1. Too Many Tabs Open*

          I’m now imagining how remote work rules change if you have the Tardis.

          If I’m working remotely in the Tardis and she suddenly decides to travel to last week, do I count that as work time for this week or last week? If last week, and I’d already done 40 hours last week, does that mean I’m now working overtime?

          1. Java*

            This comment really makes me want to watch a mashup of Doctor Who and The Office

      3. Working on my Night Cheese*

        If you are using your phone as a hotspot, some carriers block VPN connections. I have also seen some public wifi block VPN traffic, as well as streaming traffic like Citrix or Amazon Workspaces. Working “out in the world” isn’t always as easy of an option as it sounds like.

        1. Lea*

          Yeah we use a vpn but there is world of difference between working from
          A bfs house for a few days for a good reason and trying to work from the beach

      4. whocanpickone*

        There might still be an issue with privacy. If you are working with confidential information, you should not be working in a public or uncontrolled environment.

    2. Java*

      Yea in a perfect world I think most everyone would prefer for it not to matter – employees could work from wherever and employers wouldn’t have to worry about the issues that can arise from employees working from wherever.

      But alas, we do not live in such a world.

  13. Viki*

    Working in public spaces (coffee shops and libraries etc) has always been a no go for my company. The wifi is not secure, but also the data and work is proprietary. Taxes aside, that would get you not fired in my industry, but for sure a very big compliance warning.

    1. ABC*

      Same here. With proper notification and approval, we are allowed to work from a private residence other than our own that has locked wifi, but public? Nope, that’s a no-go, and people have been busted before. It’s an infosec risk for us.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        That makes sense. There’s a world of difference between e.g. working from your girlfriend of 4 years’ house two suburbs over, and working over airport wi-fi.

    2. Managing While Female*

      Yeah. It would be a huge security risk where I work to allow someone to work off public wifi or to allow people who are not pre-approved to travel, to travel with company assets. A breach could seriously destroy our business. For us, it would be a fireable offense.

      1. Observer*


        There really are situations where it’s not only reasonable, but absolutely required to have this kind of requirement.

    3. Cringe*

      I cringe now recalling how I used to occasionally work from coffee shops as a baby lawyer. I would sit in a way that my screen wasn’t visible (screen protector plus back to a wall), but I never even thought about whether the wifi was secure. This was 15 years ago, so I don’t think we were as savvy about the potential issues with public wifi as we are now. When you know better, you do better!

  14. Parcae*

    My job also has the “you must work from your approved telework location (i.e., your home)” rule and they are quite serious about it. However, our managers have the ability to approve short-term deviations from that rule, subject to limits, and my own manager is willing to be as flexible as possible within the limits. This means that I can send her an email officially requesting approval to work from Texas next week, get the “yes, of course!” reply as documentation, and then be on my merry way.

    If OP’s workplace also allows for managerial discretion, that might be a way to approach it. At a minimum, OP’s manager is not obsessed with strictly enforcing the rule, so I’d be willing to take the chance of asking if there’s any flexibility on the policy.

    1. Samwise*

      Same with my employer, a department within a large state university.

      When I was spending chunks of my work week halfway across the state due to a family emergency, I cleared it with my supervisor before working on my employer issued laptop away from home.

    2. Lizzianna*

      This is our (government agency) policy. You are expected to work from an approved location. The location listed in your agreement is, of course, approved, but as a supervisor, I can approve situational telework in other locations (within the US. A surprising number of people in my agency aren’t aware that there are issues with taking US government electronics across international borders and then trying to log in. That’s a no go, period.)

      That said, our telework agreement allows me to call people in within 48 hours notice, and while I try to be flexible, there have been business reasons I needed someone here, and had they been across the country, it would have created issues.

    3. Glazed Donut*

      Yes – when I supervised an all-remote team, I had no issue if someone needed to work from somewhere else if they let me know first so I could head off any potential issues. It also wasn’t an all-the-time thing like OP is suggesting – maybe once every couple of months someone asked to work from elsewhere for a good reason (ie a new grandbaby and wanting to spend time with the new parents).
      What was a problem was when people tried to take vacation and travel while still “working” and got found out when they were in noisy places, wifi wasn’t reliable, couldn’t focus on last-minute calls, etc. When a man called into a meeting with his supervisor from the airport bar…that was not good.

  15. anontoday*

    One of my colleagues has setup his Zoom Virtual Background to be a picture of his normal home office and it’s always turned on. He claims it is so that he doesn’t need to worry about keeping his bookshelves/background tidy but it definitely keeps it so you don’t know where exactly he is at any given time…

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      IT would still know though, and if the company is cracking down then it’s likely they’re paying attention

    2. Jess*

      A ten second IP address check is all it takes to find out location. And any VPN would send up red flags.

      1. Roland*

        Right, this would only work for non tech-savvy places. And if working from your exact literal home is truly that important, well, they should invest more in IT.

      2. KaciHall*

        question – I have to use my employers VPN when I work from home. will they still be able to see where I logged into the VPN from? (The only time I’ve worked out of state was pre-scheduled and my manager and IT knew about it. I’m just curious.)

      3. AuntKelly*

        I busted an employee a few weeks back whose Microsoft 365 profile told me they were in a different time zone. Somehow the system knew and Outlook suggested I added the new time zone to my calendar when I tried to set up a meeting with her.

        Our telework agreement says you can be recalled to the physical office within 3 hours. So now this employee will be spending every day in the office—my agency yanked her telework authorization.

        1. A Real Person I Swear*

          I have very occasionally changed my system time zone to see what would happen if someone used the applications or queries I’m building in a different time zone (weird things can happen when you work with dates & times). I wonder what Teams would do then? My IP address wouldn’t change though, so hopefully IT could see that.

  16. MountainGirl19*

    It would be nice if the company sent out the reminder with a ‘why’ behind it as Alison mentioned because, at face value, it seems controlling and overreaching. But there are very real reasons behind these policies as mentioned such as security issues and taxes. I am allowed to work remote wherever I want if it is a day or two here or there (which is surprising since I work in healthcare with highly sensitive data) but was told if I plan to move to another state (even if wintering over in a warmer climate for a couple months but keeping my home state residency), I would need permission due to tax issues.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is what we ended up doing after finding people were working in all sorts of places we weren’t authorized to do business in. It was an email from the COO explaining that, as a smaller, regional employer, we were only set up to do business in [list of about a dozen states] and that working from others was not allowed because of compliance issues with local tax, labor, etc. laws and that the confidentiality restrictions that govern our industry require those working outside the office follow specific guidelines to safeguard data.

      Our formal remote work policy also states that you are required to work from your home address on file with HR unless you have written permission to work from somewhere else, that you cannot work in earshot of another person (nor should your screens be visible to them) for confidentiality reasons, work has to be done on an authorized company device/system, and there cannot be a device like Amazon Alexa or Google Home in the room with you. There are clear expectations regarding availability and expected response time during business hours. Some of our projects also use business data that does not belong to us and the agreement we have to sign to have access to it has some fairly draconian additional restrictions.

      All of the restrictions are based on legal requirements or data protection standards. These are not whimsical restrictions we made up to make people’s lives more difficult. We try to make clear WHY the rules are in place.

      My husband works for the government and has access to restricted data, and his rules are very similar to my private organization’s, minus the state-specific issues since they operate in all 50 states, DC, and the territories.

  17. Person from the Resume*

    It’s fairly normal and frankly logical for the reasons that Alison stated. OTOH it sure seems like your boss at least doesn’t care since she hasn’t said anything about you obviously working from away from home.

    But also since you are hybrid, it is very likely that your company is assuming you are working from the state were your office it and this can cause problems.

    My company is very clear that we work from “home” and we give the address. We validate that our home office safe and that doesn’t work if you’re working for a variety of locations. OTOH I have gotten permission to work from somewhere other than home on a few occasions, but my organization has people in all 50 states so there’s not a business nexus problem; although, I suppose the tax problem could exist.

  18. Lacey*

    Yes, this is a super common requirement.
    Not everyone has it – I have a friend who is able to travel all over the place while doing her job.
    But I suspect that her job usually doesn’t have her logging in via VPN, so it’s not a security problem. And they’re a national company so the tax issues don’t come up.

  19. Spells*

    I work from everywhere! I spend 90% of my time at home at my desk, but I have all my work programs on my cell and I’ve been out in the woods on my side by side doing work once or twice. Hotels, grocery store, the cottage…anywhere I have data or wifi I can do my job. and fortunately my boss is fine with it.

  20. Lizy*

    I think it depends on your company’s culture, too. Last year (and this) my vacation is overlapping with my boss’s. I’ll be taking my laptop and working remotely (remotely remote? I mean, we’re all remote-working…). I didn’t ask – I just told Boss I’d be doing it. But, I know she’s worked “remotely” on vay-cay before. But, she’s definitely in more of a role that requires at least a half-check-in when she’s gone. But, she’s never said anything to me indicating that’s it’s NOT ok, so…
    And I know my co-worker has said she’s going to work while at ThisOtherPlace, and Boss hasn’t said anything. We do work in healthcare compliance, so security is super important. We always log in to the VPN thingy and don’t use public wifi blah blah…
    OP, if I were you, I’d just ask. Especially if friend’s house is 2 towns away and not in another state… “Hey, flexibility was one of the reasons I accepted this position. Would it be ok to work in ThisTown occasionally?”
    The worst they can say is no.

  21. Clearance Issues*

    My company is usually fairly “chill” about it IF: You remain within the US or one of the countries we have an existing presence in, have a secure wifi connection (either your company phone hotspot or a loaner wifi hub), and if you alert them you’re doing this.
    So far I’ve been lucky that the only other states I’ve been doing work in aside from my own already have business presences so it’s more “let people know where you’ll be if they’re looking for you”.
    I know other departments have different rules based on what information they have access to, but it has been made very VERY clear to all of us that publicly available wifi networks are not allowed.

  22. T.N.H*

    Any time your login, IT will know your location at a minimum. I once got a ping asking why I was working outside the state because it was set up to auto flag in their system. Just saying that there is no way to hide this (and they can detect a VPN too).

    1. Jess*

      Yes. There’s no way to “outsmart” this. They know where you are. And if using a VPN they are going to assume you’re hiding your location.

      1. Too Many Tabs Open*

        Well, depends on the VPN; when I’m using a VPN, my employer assumes it’s because because they require it for offsite work. But it’s a VPN run by my employer; they can presumably figure out where I am when I log into the VPN.

        1. T.N.H*

          Right. My point is they’ll almost certainly know you aren’t where you’re supposed to be.

    2. I Have RBF*

      See, my employer requires using the company VPN when logging in to company assets unless you are literally on a company site. So whether working from home or a hotel somewhere, we have to log on to the VPN to access email, etc.

      They also have rules about travel to certain countries that require a locked down laptop, etc. But otherwise, we are an international company with locations in Australia and South Africa, for example.

    3. woti*

      I work a couple month a year from Spain and what I do is VPN into my home office and then RDP to my computer there. Then any connections I make from my desktop show up as being made from my normal IP address stateside.

  23. Stacee*

    There also might be a fairness issue if some of your coworkers have their WFH days in the middle of the week and wouldn’t be able to travel long “weekends” like you can.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t see how that’s the LW’s problem. If the LW is doing the work and pulling their weight, the days they WFH don’t matter.

    2. The Other Virginia*

      And I’m not even sure how OP is pulling this off if they are working from the other side of the country. When you figure in travel time, time zone changes, etc., I’m not sure how some of that doesn’t bleed into work time unless you are taking a red-eye on both ends which isn’t ideal for other reasons either.

  24. KW*

    I see a bunch of people saying that only working from your actual home is allowed and I’m sure they are right for all the reasons they say. But I wanted to offer another viewpoint. It’s completely normal to work from not-your-home at my small/mid-size company and no one hides it at all.

    We are primarily based in two cities in the US and have small satellite offices in Asia and Europe, plus remote sales and field service employees in various locations and customer sites around the world. Maybe that makes us covered in many areas but we definitely don’t have offices or employees in some of the US states I have worked from.

    Now I’m kind of nervous this is one of those things everyone thinks is fine but really isn’t and we will also see an email from HR clarifying some day.

    1. Roland*

      This was totally normal at my last few workplaces too, people would be super open about zooming in from other states and on occasion other countries (the latter would be cleared with management afaik).

    2. Colin Watson*

      Yeah, I’ve been working from home for 20 years and never had an issue with sometimes being away from home. Usually this was just being at my partner’s house occasionally, but I once spent a month working from a coffee shop because of an ADSL outage at home that my ISP took forever to resolve, and in 2019 I spent several weeks travelling around Europe with my family and working from caravan parks and similar on non-travel days (though in that case I did clear it in advance). The nature of my work was such that for the most part it didn’t really matter where I was. It does also sound as though this is more of a practical/legal issue in the US than it is in Europe, though.

      Now I’m a freelancer, so it’s much the same deal but it’s up to me anyway.

      (I wonder if all the companies that obsess over public wifi spend as much effort worrying about endpoint security or about making sure that sensitive information doesn’t go over even the local network in the clear. If using public wifi had ever been an issue for me, it would have indicated that there was a problem somewhere else anyway …)

    3. Tau*

      I also blinked hard at this, but I’m not in the US so the inter-state tax situation doesn’t apply. IIRC, location was extremely lax at the start of the pandemic, now it’s “get approval by HR if you’re going to leave the country, especially outside the EU”, but HR usually makes it work (I’ve had coworkers dial in from all sorts of places) and nobody would bat an eye at you working from somewhere else in Germany. I actually worked from my parents’ place for several months during the pandemic. It’s honestly pretty surprising to me that so many places are apparently so strict on this.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Working in a different US state has implications for company tax, different labour laws, breaks, sick time etc.
        It’s more comparable to working in another EU country rather than in another German state.
        Both the US and Germany have federal systems, but the US states have so much more autonomy.

    4. Beth*

      I’m at a similar company, and I’m betting a lot of our travel is in the ‘technically it should be triggering state taxes but who’s going to know’ zone. My manager knows when I work from my parents’ place for a week. Our security guy probably knows, because he’s pretty attentive and I don’t make any attempt to hide my IP address. Do I think their state government knows I worked a few days there last year? No, and I can’t imagine how they’d find out.

      People don’t pay state taxes to every state that they had a business trip in. The laws in some states probably say they’re supposed to, but in practice it’s never occurred to me to even consider it, and I think that’s the norm. I think remote work from another state will end up falling in the same bucket for most people.

      1. Star Trek Nutcase*

        I can envision some states cracking down especially as remote work grew exponentially during & after Covid. It’s not been that long when online purchases weren’t taxed unless buyer was in same state. Now, sales tax is charged according to each state’s rate. Sure, some online sellers probably still squeak by, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get caught. Software advances will continue to make it easier & more cost effective to collect required taxes – and thus have remote work consequences.

  25. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    You need to talk to Lucinda, not to apologise but to state that you’d really love the freedom to travel and that it hasn’t affected your work.
    Ask her why there is this policy.

    There may be very good reasons for your employer requiring wfh at home only, or maybe they would allow it within the same state or only certain states, or maybe indeed they would allow the full freedom you want if you tell them it’s very important to you.

    I would not risk just ignoring this policy now you’ve all been officially informed, as you could be fired, especially if the reason is that you created a nexus in another state for your employer and cost them a huge sum.

    You’ve now learned a lesson when applying to future jobs: ask exactly what wfh means wrt location, hours, camera on etc

  26. Over It*

    My government requires all staff to work within two hours of the office on remote days, although we don’t specifically have to work from home. The reason is we could be called in for a random drug screen, in which case we are required to report within two hours or else be placed on suspension pending an investigation. In reality, the only people who get called in randomly are people who operate equipment or drive transit, and they don’t have remote work to begin with. The rest of us get screened before hiring and then every 2 years after, or if there’s some kind of workplace accident. I don’t love this policy for a variety of reasons and have taken a few short trips where I’ve worked remotely, and we all just understand there’s a small risk can get called in.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Two hour on-demand random drug screen for an office job? That is an awful policy.

      In general, I am not really happy about any drug screens for jobs that aren’t safety critical – i.e. heavy equipment operators, pilots, drivers of big rigs or buses – where being impaired is a big risk to others. (Someone drunk driving a truck is bad, driving a desk is not nearly so.) When companies decide that “fairness” requires that they piss test even office workers, it tends to grind my jets because it unnecessary and intrusive.

      1. TotallyUnreasonable*

        That’s going to seriously disadvantage anyone relying on public transportation or who needs to arrange transportation from someone else. A disabled person using paratransit usually has to arrange transportation in advance. Are they really going to not accommodate any of that?

  27. Gaia Madre*

    If you’re working away from your home office, you must be careful about public wifi and securing your company’s data. You want to use a secure vpn, particularly if anything is sensitive or personal information. And all the standard warnings, never leave your work laptop visible in your car, never walk away from it for even a moment. I mean, if you plan to keep traveling anyway, you sure don’t want a data accident on your watch!

  28. HA2*

    Yep, as an example – you say “hello from Texas”, and now (according to Texas law) your business has a presence in texas and is required to register with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and possibly collect some taxes (dunno details of course).

    Generally, crossing state lines (and even more so crossing national lines) is where your employer starts to really care for legal reasons, and working out of a public space vs a private one is where they start to really care for confidentiality reasons. So if you happen to work from, say, your relative’s house in the same state probably nobody cares, but if you work from coffeeshop (public) vs home (Private), or if you cross state lines, the employer will care. And that’s a policy that’s a lot easier to describe as “you must work from your home” rather than writing up more detailed guidelines.

  29. ThisIsNotADupicateComment*

    When your question is “Do I have to stop doing X now that my employer has told me to stop doing X?” the answer is going to be yes bearing some truly exceptional circumstances.

    1. Shutterdoula*

      OP, it sounds like you incorrectly assumed that this arrangement would work with the travel you do. That wasn’t a safe assumption, I’m sorry.

    2. it's gonna be bye bye bye... oh, wrong song*

      Or at least the answer is going to be, “proceed at your own risk.”

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      In the OP’s case it sounds more like, “I may not have taken this job if I knew about this policy. What do I do now?”

      1. Busy Bee*

        Regardless of weather OP would have taken the job if they knew about the policy, the answer is still, “Yes, stop doing X.” Or possibly, “Stop doing X or start looking for another job.”

        1. Busy Bee*

          Sorry, I meant “whether OP would have taken the job”, not “weather”!

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Also, my thought is if you took a job contingent upon a certain policy, it would probably be wise to ask about that policy during the interview process? I can understand in the early days of the COVID WFH chaos not realizing that WFH didn’t mean work from anywhere, especially since so many people relocated in that first year, but if it was a recent switch, I’m surprised the LW didn’t get confirmation on that before taking the job.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        If you can’t persuade management to allow what you want, then decide whether it’s important enough to you to start job-hunting.

        Don’t just carry on travelling and hope noone notices – if the reason is something that could bring huge costs (e.g. creating a nexus or violating security regs) your management might do spot checks and ask where everyone is or get IT to check everyone’s IP location.

        It’s much better to leave for another job than to leave because you’ve been fired for disobeying clear management instructions about wfh and /or lying about it when asked.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      Yes, OP it sounds like this is directed more at you than others b/c of your “hello from Texas” – a good manager would also double back with you personally to make sure that you understood the message in case you thought you’d be exempt.

      Also totally fair for you to decide that this is a dealbreaker! And to start looking for a different job that had a more flexible version of remote work – say, anywhere in your own state is fine but not in another state, only on private WIFIs and not Starbucks, etc.

  30. Caro*

    Until just recently, my home internet was sketchy and weak. We had service providers come to our home with devices, and say, “No, our service can’t work at this location.” One provider said, “We have great service just north of you, and great service just south of you, but your house is in a dead zone.”
    If I had to work remotely, such as during covid lockdown, I had to drive to the nearest town, park outside the library, and use the free Wi-fi that they provided without password during the lockdown – decidedly not a secure connection.

  31. JustWondering*

    I’ve seen this requirement many times for companies that let people work from home but I’ve always wondered what if you don’t have a home? Especially for a company that previously let you work wherever but is now requiring you to work from home but you don’t have a house or apartment, like what if you live in a camper or van and travel around? Or there are people like me who live in such a rural area that they can’t even get internet at their house?

    1. Managing While Female*

      If they don’t have an office to work from, then I’d think it’s like not meeting any other job requirement like needing to have your own transportation to get to work, or needing professional clothing, etc. You either make it work, or find someplace else that better fits your lifestyle.

    2. constant_craving*

      Most companies will have basic requirements that must be met in order for you to be eligible for telework. People in situations like these would likely not be eligible.

    3. metadata minion*

      There are some people who just can’t work from home because of the nature of either their work or their home. If you’re applying to a remote position and you know you’re not going to be signing on from a fixed private home, I would recommend asking questions to make sure it’s going to be ok to work from the library/cafe/van that travels across state lines/etc.

    4. Roland*

      Well, the remote positions I’ve held were all fine with occasional working from other states, but they also clearly stated that you needed generally good internet to be allowed to work fully remotely. People would be totally understanding when comcast was having issues or if you were currently in Alaska so you had your camera off, but for the most part it needed to be working well. If someone doesn’t have good internet at least most of the time, then a remote position is not for them.

    5. Anita*

      I approved someone working from their campervan. We had a really sensible conversation about how they could keep themselves and their work safe, and they absolutely could do it so it was absolutely ok. It doubled, unsurprisingly, as a gentle check on their well-being and whether we could be doing more to support them given the reasons they were living in a campervan.

    6. Hlao-roo*

      I think “work from home” or “work remotely” can be broken down into a few different categories of requirements:

      – tools to do the job (internet connection, phone line, pen and paper, etc.): a rural house with no internet connection is not a viable WFH location for a job that requires internet, but a camper van might be if the person can hotspot or find another solution

      – privacy/security requirements (ex. home office with locking door or similar): camper van may qualify, if the person lives there alone (because the door of the vehicle locks, so that could count as “home office with locking door”)

      – tax/employment law requirements: a company can mandate that employees only work in one state, or only in a few states where they have a business nexus. Hypothetical camper van employee could still travel and work within the company constrained area

    7. Observer*

      I’ve always wondered what if you don’t have a home?

      In some cases your employer could find a way to accommodate you. In other cases, not. If it’s a requirement to work remotely, they might work with you to find a work around that let’s you work appropriately. If it’s something they see as a perk, though, in all likelyhood they are going to say “Then come into the office.”

    8. PotatoRock*

      Yeah, I think if they’re changing the requirement from “work from wherever” to “must work from permanent address”, they are going to require you to /get/ a permanent address, and it can be typical to have minimum home internet requirements. Unfortunately if you can’t meet those requirements, I think most of the time the company would say it doesn’t work

    9. Cicely*

      Well, it seems like working remotely wouldn’t be an option for someone in that situation.

  32. Pinto*

    Get clarification on the policy. They may be more concerned about the “working ftom a coffee shop” instances than the “working in a private room while I visit my parents issue”

  33. Chris*

    I’ve worked for my current employer from campgrounds, hotel rooms, airports, friends’ and relatives’ houses, parked cars, etc. in at least a dozen states with no issue. Now this does come with the caveat that I’m currently a 1099 contractor, so my employer has less control over where and when I work. However, they were equally accommodating when I was on a W2.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m starting to wonder what the tax liabilities are as a 1099 contractor. Since you are paying your own taxes, it’s quite possible you would have been on the hook for taxes in some of those states if they had somehow known you were doing work there.

      States really like to collect their taxes.

    2. ragazza*

      If you’re a 1099 worker, your employer should have very little, if any, control over where you work, especially with the new DOL rules.

  34. Not a question, just a comment...*

    I am posting here because I want my comment seen. :)

    At my job, we went remote for Covid and have returned to a hybrid schedule because 100% in office is not required (at least for now).

    I learned well after the fact that many of my co-workers would travel, login and work “not enough.” There have been questions about job performance, specifically output and availability.

    This has triggered a similar email to our Staff. I am irritated that I have been “working from home” when others have been “working from wherever.” I feel stupid.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      I don’t know, it sounds like they’ve burned their reputations by slacking off from wherever, while you’ve been building a reputation for reliably getting all your work done and being available whenever you’re needed. Somebody has been stupid here, but I don’t think it was you…

    2. Hillary*

      this just is bad overall – the abusers of the privilege get to curtail the privilege for everyone. If policy has a reason, state the reason and apply the policy. If work performance is an issue, manage the work performance. If someone is not working enough, not available for meetings, not checking in, not being responsive, then that’s the issue not the policy (we can equally ignore our phones in the office too).

  35. K8T*

    Genuine question as someone who does not WFH – how would they know if you’re at another location if there’s no other indicators (delay, illness, social media, etc)? Does IT flag if someone’s IP is in a different state for X amount of time?

    1. metadata minion*

      IT definitely *can* flag that way; I’m guessing whether they do so automatically is going to depend a lot on the employer.

    2. NotARealManager*

      They might not know unless you bring it up, but then you’ll run the risk of being found out if IT does happen to see something funky in their logs or you slip up and mention you were at Disneyland last week. The potential consequences will likely outweigh trying to be sneaky about it.

    3. TX_TRUCKER*

      My company routinely checks IP location for folks in positions that require a security clearance. But for most positions we never bother to check.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      The software that runs this site can log your IP address when you make a comment. It’s not terribly difficult to discover someone’s IP address and figure out your physical location. You don’t have to be in a different state. You could just be at the cafe across the street from your house.

    5. Sleve*

      Maybe I’m paranoid, but at this point I’m just assuming that IT could set up a report for my boss to track my heart rate and tell him the breed of my next door neighbour’s dog if my boss could explain the business case for it. I always assume that everything I’m doing anywhere near a computer is being turned into data available for the highest bidder, and that’s the price of having a job in this modern world.

      1. Sleve*

        10 years ago your IT department could already hear you complaining about your boss even though you had your mic turned off in the department-wide video call, just by looking at the video of you and analyzing the vibrations of the bag of chips on your desk. What state you’re working from? Pssht. Child’s play.

  36. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Wait it out.
    My place gave us laptops October 2019, but we were never to work from home unless there was some national emergency. (lots of this is stupid. If the water main breaks again, I’m taking the day off. Give me back my tower computer.)
    We were each grouped and assigned one day that month to work from home to confirm access from your home and only your home.
    December 2020.
    We were told that we needed to confirm again. Take your laptop home that night, log on and confirm access. I was going to a friend’s in the next county that night. My boss got me permission from two levels up to confirm I could log on from my friend’s house. Because it didn’t matter. We were never going to work from home, but everyone needed to log in remotely so IT could confirm the system worked.
    March 2020. Work from home the next two weeks. But only your home.
    September 2020. Yes, you can work from the homes of friends and family if they are in your bubble.
    Jan 2023
    It arrived like the third child in five years.
    Oh, you can get a hotspot from your phone in your car while you and spouse are driving your kid to college? Great, send me the report when it’s done.
    Wait for the dust to settle. People will calm down and realize flexibility is part of the package.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Waiting it out only works if there is no business reason, so they just want it their way – and also if there isn’t a queue of people eager to take the job as is.

      If wfh elsewhere can cause a nexus in another state, or break security regs for your industry or gov contracts etc, the wfh policy won’t change,

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I see what you are saying. I’m in finance. Ver regulated. But rethinking, I also feel that the wait and see probably won’t work without an international crisis. OP’s company has very little pressure to adapt.

  37. WingNWing*

    I live on a sailboat. For some of my work from home days, I was literally at home … but my home was anchored in a quiet cove somewhere instead of tied up in our usual marina! (Note to some of Alison’s caveats: Federal government, so being out of state for tax purposes wasn’t relevant, and I had the same connectivity and availability regardless of where I was.

  38. Anita*

    In my, not US, experience it is fine to ask to be able to work from a location other than your home. There are likely to be questions, including about why, how you will keep yourself and the organisation’s information safe, and how you will make sure you are available for work given the why.

    For example, I have agreement to work from my mother’s home for 5-6 weeks to support her post surgery. We’ve talked about making sure I will have a well set up work space where I cannot be overseen or overheard, that I will take leave for mum’s surgery day and immediate recovery days, and so on.

    In my experience as a manager the problem with people “working from home” which isn’t actually home is that sometimes they’re working from really unsuitable locations (“my brother’s living room while his kids are home for the holidays”, “from my car wherever I am that day”).When it’s a suitable location and it doesn’t mask something where they should really be taking leave (“from my dad’s hospice room”) it’s absolutely fine :)

    1. Christmas Carol*

      While trying to keep my partner from dying, I spent many a night working from the Bone Marrow Transplant ward at 3 am. Our hospital has excellent guest wifi. I love my boss/company.

      1. Anita*

        If I was your manager I would have strongly encouraged you to take paid leave (not in the US, so we have reasonable and humane leave provision, you would have qualified for leave at full pay). I completely recognise that some people benefit from the normalcy provided by continuing the work while their personal life is damned hard, and have been open to finding ways for people in similar situations to keep working in a way that has been beneficial for them without putting pressure on.

  39. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I recently left a job that had a policy that wherever you were working, if it was in-office or remote, you had to stay put for the entire workday. This didn’t have anything to do with IP security—they just didn’t want you running errands during your lunch hour or taking a walk around the block during break. Supposedly this was for safety concerns but considering they made a pretty big deal during recruiting of all the great places to eat in the vicinity—which they then didn’t want you to leave campus to go to during your unpaid lunch period? Yyyeaahhhh.

    1. BikeWalkBarb*

      Stay put the entire day and not go for a walk? Guess they haven’t heard about workplace wellness programs. Good grief. This doesn’t even sound legal. No wonder you’re out of there.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        Yeah like you could go for a walk around the building but you weren’t supposed to leave their grounds during the workday (but what if I want Arby’s for lunch?) and if you were working from home you were “expected” to stay on your property and not e.g. walk your dog around your block or run to pick up a script during your breaks. It was a call center so they were very careful to make sure you *took* your breaks—that’s one reason I favor call centers to work in—but they didn’t want you going anywhere. It was a pretty weird policy because I’m WFH and logged out for break, how are you going to know whether I went anywhere unless I fess up? (Or, I suppose, something happens to delay my return and it comes out that way.)

      2. Justin D*

        My work (top four bank) even encourages us to go walk outside. They have signs by the elevators.

    2. Thomas*

      Isn’t the US standard that if you’re not free to leave, it’s not actually a break by law?

      1. basically functional*

        It’s not illegal to prohibit employees from leaving the premises during breaks, but it’s terrible.

  40. Completely Marshmallow*

    I work for the Canadian government and in my department we get regular emails (usually around long weekends, Xmas or March break) that work IT devices such as phones, laptops, etc are absolutely NOT allowed to be taken out of the country for personal travel, and for work travel only with prior approval and approved devices.

    The email then invariably goes on to specify that quick day trips to the US also count “travelling to another country “ which always cracks me up.

    1. Cold and Tired*

      Lollllllll so I know someone who works in relocations for some companies based in Detroit that sometimes recruit Canadians to come work in the US. And there are always some of them who try to live in Windsor and work in Detroit and think it’s no big deal. Um, your tax status mandates you’re residing in the us. The us Canadian border is indeed an international border. It counts as international travel! The number of people baffled by this is always entertaining, but their tax penalties for doing this are not haha

      1. ken*

        I mean I get that this doesn’t work for every person or company but I don’t think it’s necessarily laughable. There are in fact people who commute or work remotely over international borders.

  41. ivra*

    Assuming the writer’s organization is not one where asking questions about this sort of thing results in investigations or being flagged as a “troublemaker,” I think it would be reasonable to follow up on the policy email and say “hey, this wasn’t my understanding of our rules until now and it’s going to impact me to change. I’d like to understand the goals of this policy and see if we can figure out another solution?”

    That is, if it’s a policy, the writer certainly needs follow it (or at least appear to follow it), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for an exception to be made. We don’t know what the reason for the policy is, and therefore, whether there’s a way for LW to keep their flexibility or not. Is there a reason not to do that?

    For what it’s worth, my organization has been full remote since well before COVID and has a presence in all 50 states, a choice they made deliberately in order to allow employees to work from wherever. I have some colleagues who lead a #vanlife, and others who travel or bounce between multiple locations often. I like to work from coffee shops myself, though I have had to be careful about that when I have important meetings because you can’t always rely on public Internet to be meeting-capable. Since that’s the norm at many organizations, it doesn’t seem like LW should get in trouble just for asking, so long as they abide by the answer.

  42. Immortal for a limited time*

    It’s for more than just security and tax reasons. Your employer also provides workers’ compensation insurance for accidents or overuse injuries that occur on the job, so it is in their best interest to cover their bases by requiring a safe, quiet, ergonomic home workstation setup. But they should have a policy in place for that, so your lack of awareness is probably not your fault. In many cases, even employers who have strict standards and policies will allow an employee to work elsewhere on a limited basis, with permission. My director allows me to work from another state if I’m traveling, but we both know I’m responsible and have a good work ethic, so that’s just him being a good manager and allowing common-sense exceptions that are temporary in nature.

    1. Alex*

      Does your company check your home workstation to make sure they think it is safe and ergonomic? Mine sure doesn’t! (And until recently, I didn’t even own a desk or a chair.)

      1. Observer*

        Some companies do. And some only start after they have been hit with a Workers Comp claim.

      2. sixth for the truth over solace in lies*

        Mine didn’t until someone got injured. I think it just didn’t occur to them. Now they absolutely do.

      3. Kristin*

        At my workplace you have to complete a checklist and verify that your WFH setup is safe and ergonomic. No one CHECKS, so you could certainly lie and continue to work from your couch, but it’s a requirement for WFH.

  43. Iconoclast*

    Remote is remote! Whether from a coffee shop or the slopes of an active volcano!

      1. Cicely*

        Yeah. I don’t understand the “I’ll do what I want regardless!” blather.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      No, it is not. Companies have a right to make policies about this. And LW’s company certainly has. It is not a free-for-all.

  44. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

    Can I ask what may be a stupid question, but that I am asking in good faith?

    I understand the tax implications if I work from my mom’s house in NJ instead of my own apartment in Brooklyn. But….how will my job/the government know if I don’t tell them?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Your IT department can know (depending on how you access the internet).

      But the government is not watching you that closely for tax purposes yet.

    2. Educator*

      I would take a look at your laptop settings–mine always has location on, and I can’t adjust that. My IT department definitely knows where I am. They always use that power for good (like asking me if I need help getting my keyboard set up for another language when I am working abroad) and my company encourages us to work from different places if needed, but I can imagine other employers with other business needs using that power differently.

      1. ihaveaheadache*

        If your using a VPN to watch some other foreign country Netflix or something that doesn’t help either. We have contracts which specify locations which are allowed for work to be performed and I couldn’t tell you how many times security violations are raised to me from a client about traffic hitting that client’s network coming from Germany or Australia or something when its just someone using a VPN to watch Netflix.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      In my experience of managing remote teams for several years, and with the caveat that I am a pretty low-key manager and our HR occasionally goes on power trips, a lot of our remote work policy is of the “if nobody can tell you’re violating this, godspeed” variety. Like, the policy says you cannot be the primary caregiver for a child under 12 while you’re on the clock. But if you’re making your metrics and attending scheduled meetings and doing your job efficiently and to the level I need you to be, while babysitting your three grandchildren, more power to you, just don’t tell me about it.

    4. doreen*

      They probably won’t know unless you tell them. And they probably aren’t going to be looking ,
      and even if they have a clear policy prohibiting it . there might be an attitude of ” I can’t do anything about what I don’t know about”. But – there’s always the possibility that something happens that causes them to find out. For example, if the laptop issued by your job gets stolen in NJ. I know someone who got caught leaving work early in just that way, because a piece of work equipment got stolen when she was miles away from where she was supposed to be.

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It’s one thing breaking your employer’s rules, because the worse that can happen is you get fired with a bad reference.
      However, if the tax office decides you have been deliberately filling in their forms wrongly / defrauding them, you can receive massive fines and / or jail.

  45. NotARealManager*

    Taxes, cybersecurity are both reasons. Workers’ comp is also a reason. Wherever you’re working, that is now covered by the company’s policy and that can have its own risk factors and may require you to be classified differently (and potentially change the employer’s workers’ comp rates).

    1. Lurker*

      And your company may need to purchase additional workers comp policies for different states if the primary one doesn’t cover those states/locations.

  46. MikeM_inMD*

    If you are performing work under a contract with the US federal government, you also need to check to see if the contract specifies “place of performance”. They can specify where you are to do they work – sometimes loosely, but often very specifically – and doing it elsewhere could mean your company being fined, and/or losing the contract. And you could lose your job as well.
    (I don’t know if this type of clause appears in contracts with state and local governments or contracts with other companies.)

    1. TX_TRUCKER*

      My company has several high risk contracts. Not only do they have “location” clauses, they also physically inspect a home office to check that there is an office with a locking door.

  47. Bee*

    Ugh, my company just did this too, and it’s very annoying because I was in the same position as the OP last year – I spent several weekends working from elsewhere, including taking meetings with my bosses while being completely transparent about where I was, and no one ever said a thing. So now of course I’m wondering if this is directed at me specifically, even though it’s not like my company to be that passive-aggressive, and if not why I now have to get written permission for something that caused no problems last year. I will, obviously, just – sympathies, OP!

    1. Managing While Female*

      If it was tacitly allowed previously (and especially if this is a bigger company), it’s probably more of the company doing a CYA (cover your butt) thing than anything specifically directed as you. They may not want a tax audit or other potential implications.

      1. Bee*

        It’s a small enough company that “this whole policy is just for me” is not as paranoid as it sounds, hah. But I also have one of the most independent-contributor roles at the company and spend most of my WFH days just on email or local files. One of my coworkers suspects the problem is that someone else didn’t have the technology on hand to remote-login and handle a request from the boss, hence the crackdown. The announcement email was very “we will have questions about whether you are able to do your job” and not “this is causing us tax issues, please stop,” which would have annoyed me a lot less!

  48. Marlene*

    I’m unsure if this has already been mentioned, but there are also workers’ compensation issues with specifying remote work sites. We require remote workers’ to be trained on creating ergonomic work stations at their homes in an attempt to lower workers’ compensation risk. Allowing remote workers to work from any site increases that risk, not only from less ergonomic work stations but also from greater risk of injury at other sites. Another consideration is that we are a public employer and our state laws require public employees to report to the work site in emergency conditions, they must be within reasonable commuter distance on their remote work days.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      There is a link buried in a comment up above. I haven’t looked at it, so I’m not sure how comprehensive it is.

  49. Cuate*

    to some extent i actually think the policy can be reasonable. In my employers case, if you are “at work” whether in the office or at home we still covered by worker’s comp (or similar insurance).

    We have to sign agreements indicating that our remote workstations are safe both in terms of information and physically i.e. ergonomically safe, i know where the fire exit is, etc.

    we however can get managerial permission for short term trips etc..e.g. if i want to work while visiting my family across the coubtry.

  50. NothappyinNY*

    CPA here, not easily. Also, at least two issues. One is do you have to pay tax in your new state, other is does your employer have to file and pay corporate taxes there (and even if not much, there is an aggravation factor).

  51. You want stories, I got stories*

    I happened to watch a TikTok video last week. This 20ish woman was running a meeting with other members of her team. The manager finally asked her where she was, since she had the camera at a slightly different angle. Turns out she was getting her nails done during the meeting.

    From the comments I was reading, it seemed more people were not seeing an issue with that. She was working remotely as her job allowed and getting her nails was not impeding her ability to work.

    I could see many an HR person seeing that video and saying, “nope, we need to let people know what the requirements are.”

    To share my own story, my teenage daughter sent me a text, “Can you come and pick me up from this school event … 3 hours away.” She thought I could work remotely from my car as I was driving to get her. Luckily for her I had the day off.

  52. Educator*

    Can I just say that it is a huge pet peeve of mine when people say they are “reminding you” of something they have never told you before?

    It’s like–no, I would have remembered that all on my own because I am a smart adult. Why are we pretending that this is not new information, and why are you addressing me like I am a toddler who forgot her mittens?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Maybe because it’s not new information. It’s possible that LW and their colleagues were told this early on, it went in one ear and out the other, and HR is trying to be as polite as possible.

      I am a smart adult and I forget things.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          If you’re not paying attention the first time around (perhaps because you are planning a trip to Texas) it certainly would be news to you. We don’t know whether LW was told this up front and forgot it or not. But it’s a leap to assume that LW was never told about it. People’s brains have a way of filtering things out that they aren’t that interested in at that moment, even though they are highly consequential for them in the long term.

          But to get back to my original point, it’s probably HR just trying to be polite. There’s no point in nitpicking their word choice.

          1. Letter Writer*

            I am 100% certain that we were never told this, and it wasn’t in my job offer or employee handbook. Other employees who have been there for years are also surprised!

            1. GythaOgden*

              It helps to read policies every so often due to the potential for them to change; many policies have review dates and revisions every so often without people necessarily being directly informed. I certainly knew when the IT policies at my previous job were up for review and luckily for me (non-patient facing reception has a lot of downtime) they tended to become more liberal over time than the opposite.

              My current org sends out a daily newsletter which is very useful in tracking policy changes. We’re in a highly mobile job anyway across a wide area, so there is a decently relaxed approach to telecommuting (and we are government owned, so our security is pretty good and I’m allowed to connect to a hotel wi-fi system) but keeping up with changes in policy is a good idea in general.

              Ultimately, however HR phrases it, you still have to adhere to it. We would expect you to keep on top of policies just as ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’. They’re being polite, but you need to focus on asking permission here, not forgiveness, because honestly they have more power over your continued employment than any of us do, including Alison.

  53. WellHere'sTheThingJanet*

    I had to deal with this with an agent of mine. I learned that he would frequently work in coffeeshops or similar public-ish locations. He never got any complaints from customers but he was taking and making calls in a public space which I’m sure disturbed the quiet atmosphere for others. The biggest issue was that the wifi was often unsecured and we deal with customer billing information, so although I wanted to work with him as much as possible (he had some housing issues) I had to be firm about the security of his connection.

  54. Sarah*

    LW, so YOU are the one that is ruining it for the rest of us! I’m glad you asked because most people have figured out that you need to keep quiet about such things. Some companies are now pinging VPN’s to see the location.

    Have I picked up groceries during work hours? Yep. Did laundry, started dinner early, took a walk on a nice day? Yep, yep, yep. These things are less taboo then say traveling out of state. So please, I beg of you to ZIP IT before more and more places push the 5 days in office nightmare on us.

    1. tabloidtained*

      C’mon. This isn’t necessary. LW is not ruining anything for the rest of the workforce…

      1. Peanut Hamper*


        Yes, bosses and companies that don’t like WFH hate it for exactly these reasons.

        FWIW, I’m 150% more productive working at home than I am in the office. (I was in the office a few months ago and I heard a colleague have a half-hour conversation about how she’s more productive in the office than she is at home, all the while not doing a lick of work while holding forth.) But too many people think we are doing anything but working. Stories like this just back up their mistaken assumption.

        1. Parakeet*

          I can see the various reasons why employers might be concerned about people working from random locations, but the LW specifically says they are working, that their productivity isn’t affected. So, I don’t see how the LW’s story backs up biased people’s stereotypes about remote workers being some inferior kind of worker that isn’t doing real work.

  55. kiki*

    I work at a company that was remote-friendly long before the pandemic. It’s interesting because before the pandemic, they were way more flexible– if you wanted to travel and work for a couple days of a personal trip, they didn’t bat an eye as long as you were actually able to work and there were no security concerns.

    A couple years into the pandemic, my company put out a new policy and has become more strict. If you are working anywhere outside the city you reside in, you have to request permission to work remotely. And they only guarantee that this will be allowed for you once per year.

    It makes me curious if states and countries have gotten stricter about folks working while traveling. While I understand the desire to make sure digital nomads are paying taxes where they’re actually living and working, it seems really restrictive if I can’t do some work a couple days while I’m on a trip. And it makes me wonder about business trips and conferences too– what are the tax considerations there?

    I guess my own personal thought is that working remotely while in another state or country for a week or less should really be fine, no questions asked. I know that’s not the case legal, but that’s my feeling, haha

    1. GythaOgden*

      I think the thing with conferences etc is that the company knows about it, it’s temporary, they can make arrangements behind the scenes and so on. They may well have to pay a bit extra or have insurance that will cover the times a state actually comes knocking.

      If I’ve learned anything from the last six months as a clerk for a group of managers, it’s that management of a large org is like taking off the smooth shell of a space rocket (like Saturn V) to reveal the almost fractal-like wiring underneath. There’s a lot of moving parts and intricate circuitry underneath the sleek exterior. I’ve learnt A LOT just by paying attention to what people talk about. (I’ve also learned some frustrating things about people I formally looked up to. My old line manager who helped me hold down my job while my husband was sick and dying and coped with the aftermath of my panic attacks during the first week or two of the pandemic and my injury, and who I’m friends with on Xbox now I’m no longer his direct report…can play hardball with my new department and is not best-loved by my new team. I’ve learned, not the hard way, to keep my nose out of discussions about him because I think he genuinely does have weaknesses which come to the fore when dealing with my org and they see the disorganised side of him. He is, from what I can see, much better at managing people than he is maintenance projects.)

      If it’s a personal trip, they have no clear idea what’s going on, can’t make arrangements, don’t know what the security arrangements are, maybe don’t have insurance if anything should go wrong, and so on.

  56. Hyaline*

    I’d get clarification on the policy before deciding what to do. First, *is* it a policy? Or just something Lucinda said, perhaps as shorthand for “no you can’t run errands during WFH time?” If the latter, I think you have more flexibility to explore why she’s making this request and whether “working in my cousin’s spare room” is a reasonable exception. Maybe a lot of employees have been trying to work from spaces not at all conducive to work—like the public pool. Maybe the WFH flexibility has been abused, like people running errands, taking trips and not accounting for travel or trying to avoid taking vacation days. The timing of the email—right as summer is approaching—makes me wonder. Or maybe it’s a real policy that you’d be risking repercussions violating. But I’d get clarification on what it means first.

  57. CommanderBanana*

    On behalf of everyone who is still clinging to the limited WFH flexibility their employer is still giving them by their fingernails, please do not flout WFH rules and ruin it for your coworkers.

  58. 653-CXK*

    My company has been pretty laissez-faire when it comes to WFH. I sometimes go to the office to pick up some documents or clean around my desk for a couple of hours, then I stop over for lunch on the way home and then complete the day. Usually when I WFH, I will step out occasionally to get fresh air, get lunch down the street, do my laundry, and fetch the mail. As long as I’m not idle, my boss is fine with this arrangement.

  59. Coach Beard*

    I don’t really have an opinion on working from a different state, but I think the expectation of “professional attire in meetings” is unreasonable. Maybe it means something different from what I’m interpreting, but I don’t think it should matter what you wear when working from home as long as you are dressed and what you’re wearing doesn’t have the potential to offend others.

    In re: being online on Teams, I think one should be allowed to take breaks that they may not take when working from the office, provided they prioritize their work, get their work done, and generally don’t have an expectation of needing to be able to complete a time sensitive task with little notice. That became a point of contention recently at my job, in which I work mostly from home. I think that, if you can trust someone to work from home, you should trust them to manage their time properly until they give you a reason not to.

    1. Bruce*

      My business unit has normalized not having our cameras on for calls, we do a lot of presentations and screen sharing so we don’t really miss having the camera on anyhow.

      1. Coach Beard*

        Yeah, same for my company, at least within my department. We had one on-camera meeting on my first day but that hasn’t happened since. It does feel impersonal though, but that’s just my personal opinion. Either way, we shouldn’t be nitpicking what people wear in their own homes, but maybe for this post, “presentable” and “professional” are being used interchangeably.

    2. Matt*

      Whenever I read AAM posts about those camera-crazy companies and “attire” requirements, I’m so so so grateful for my camera-off culture. Especially in hot summers when the question isn’t anymore about whether certain clothing is acceptable, but reduces itself to “clothing yes or no” :-)

  60. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    Because of our client requirements and extremely strict Cybersecurity Guidelines (also a client requirement due to our industry), our WFH has to be that – WFH. It is not work remotely from anywhere. And our IT Department has to rigorously monitor where our Team Members are working from – It has to be from their Home IP Address which we keep on file. This is spelled out in the WFH Agreement everyone with this privilege at our company has to sign before they are allowed to do WFH, again a client requirement. We have had to revoke people’s WFH privileges for violating this requirement.

    I know many people will read this and think we are being far too strict and rigid, but we don’t have a choice in the matter. Due to our client requirements, only a very limited number of positions within our organization are eligible for 100% WFH or even Hybrid WFH. The rest are 100% in office, which is communicated during the Hiring Process, with an explanation the candidates as to why. We can’t allow work from anywhere due to contractual stipulations. It’s what you sign up for if you work for our company.

  61. MPM*

    It can also be an issue if you have a job that has state licensing and are regularly working remotely from a state where you are not licensed.

  62. Bruce*

    My employer not only has concerns about the payroll tax issues, they have different pay scales for different areas. They insisted (rightfully) that I be listed under the correct address for where I was actually living and working, and adjusted my pay when I went remote. Other than that they don’t seem to mind occasional working while traveling, some of my coworkers have gone home overseas and worked from there for a month. But those cases may have been on the down low, I’m not sure :-)

  63. Uh Oh HR*

    I have had multiple instances commuting home on public transportation where I’ve been able to read presumably-confidential information over someone’s shoulder as they answered emails or reviewed reports. In one instance, it was for a direct competitor — imagine if I’d been someone other than an overworked administrative peon who wasn’t paid enough to care!

    Company policies speak to the lowest common denominator in many instances. At the very least, discuss this with your manager and ask for clarification. I’m sure they’d at least like to know what time zone you’re in at the moment.

  64. Joe Lies*

    My best friend lives about 30 feet over the Idaho line into Oregon. She works in Idaho. She’s been told she cannot work from home under any circumstances due to the tax issue.

  65. Have you had enough water today?*

    I understand the potential reasons, but a workplace should not be allowed to mandate where you work from on your WFH days unless there is a legitimate taxation or security reason for the mandate. Just doing it to prevent people from going on holidays while they are working is petty & unnecessary if your team is meeting or exceeding expectations.

    During covid was a different matter because employers had a duty of care to ensure their staff remained safe, but now covid is “over” (allegedly) there is no reason to tether people to their home office if they have the capacity to get their shit done from any location.

    1. Have you had enough water today?*

      Just to add, I am in Australia so our employment & taxation laws are very different to the US which makes working from anywhere slightly less complex.

    2. Cicely*

      “a workplace should not be allowed to mandate where you work from on your WFH days”

      It’s a perk like any other, and it isn’t criminal, unlawful, unfair, or damaging. Don’t like the perk? Work somewhere else.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      What happens if your equipment fails when you’re on holiday?

      The idea of WFH is that if its necessary, you can still come into the office. It’s the same commute as always, so its workable and feasible. If you’re halfway through your workday and a tree falls on the power cables for your suburb, you can pick up and go in. If you’re on holiday, you’re nowhere near the office and can’t do that.

      1. Colin Watson*

        In hybrid shops, sure, that’s part of the general understanding around WFH. But you can’t go as far as to say that that’s the idea of WFH, full stop – fully remote jobs absolutely exist where the employee is nowhere near a central office and couldn’t get to one even if they wanted to (maybe there isn’t even a central office at all).

    4. kalli*

      Thing is, in the US there are legitimate tax reasons for not wanting employees to cross state lines and keep working – our system is national, theirs isn’t.

    5. Head sheep counter*

      Employers have all kinds of restrictions on workplace requirements. For example, generally, one must wear clothes. One must not behave in a criminal manor. The core hours are X to Y. The holidays are A, B and C. We agree to terms when we agree to be employees.

  66. WonderEA*

    It is surprisingly to me that this wasn’t already spelled out in the hybrid/WFH agreement… but then maybe companies still aren’t defining their policies even after 3+ years of WFH. I agree with the advice not to draw attention to your location anymore, and maybe just blur your background on zoom/Teams when you’re on a call.

    1. SomeCompaniesAreStrange*

      The what? I’ve been working mostly hybrid or fully remote for 30+ years and I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  67. Kindred Spirit*

    LW – Now that a clear policy about WFH has been communicated, I think your two choices are to follow it or ask for an exception. I would not carry on as usual and hope they don’t notice, or hope that if they did, they’d just give you a slap on the wrist.

    I know someone who was fired for disregarding their company’s policy that WFH could only take place at the employee’s actual home. The company is in CA, and the employee logged in from a location a little over 100 miles from the employee’s home. I am not sure if they had crossed state lines. but clearly the company was monitoring where logins were originating from. They told the employee to come into the office the following day and they were terminated— no second chance.

  68. Tradd*

    If you have the ability to regularly work remote, you are fortunate. I joined current company in 2021. They were already back in the office then. I have to do hot shipment clearances (I’m a customs broker) on weekends, so that’s the only reason I have the ability to remote in. I’ve got the longest commute in the office and had to fight hard for permission to WFH when sick or weather is bad (snow/ice). Regular WFH is not possible. Owners don’t like regular desk level employees WFH.

    1. Caramellow*

      My last company trialed WFH years before the pandemic. They were super nervous about it but allowed a select group of people to WFH. Two of the WFH people became hard to reach, didn’t answer calls or keep up their metrics. They sent managers to the houses and found one guy mowing his lawn on work time and the other sleeping by the pool. Both were fired.

      Post pandemic I’ve seen a steady erosion of WFH allowed to my former colleagues. I think they are now down to one WFH day a week and it can’t be Monday or Friday. And I know the corporate memory still lingers on the two leakers rather than the majority who did the job well from home.

      1. Tradd*

        Ugh. I regularly look at open positions listed online for my industry and desk level positions are overwhelming in the office, so I think that has a lot to do the with the lack of WFH.

  69. Isabel Archer*

    This really gets my hackles up. The tax thing is eyeroll inducing, because who’s reporting that they worked a day or a week or a month in X state to that state’s tax office? Nobody. (To be clear, I totally understand the tax implications of employees who actually moved to other states during the pandemic, but this isn’t that.)

    The workers comp thing makes no sense: as many others have pointed out, if you’re injured while attending a work event offsite from your company’s location, aren’t you still covered, whether it was down the block or across the country? (Wait, is that when the you-don’t-live here tax vultures sweep in?)

    And sure, some people work in highly sensitive industries or handle classified information regularly. So if the woman with the nuclear codes (thanks goddessoftransitory!) is having a public Teams chat on the Starbucks wifi, then she should know better. The rest of us paper pushers whose work couldn’t be less important to national security or corporate trade secrets or anything else should be allowed to work from our brother’s/friend’s/parents’ homes, or from a picnic table by a lake, or anywhere else we damn please, as long as our output and availability during work hours aren’t diminished. Full stop.

    1. Uh Oh HR*

      Unfortunately, ‘nobody cares if we countermand tax law’ isn’t really a legitimate defense if you’re caught countermanding tax law. This might not be a big deal for larger corporations that already have offices across multiple states, but setting up an employment base in another state, which could also trigger workers comp and temp disability laws, is an expensive endeavor.

    2. ragazza*

      Same. I love one of my friends but she’s very “by the book” when it comes to work, like she literally sits at her desk 9 to 5. She figured out an employee (not a direct report) was working from somewhere other than home, probably in another state, and was all put out. She did mention the tax issue. My take was: it’s not your problem, it’s the company’s. Leave it be!

    3. BigSky*

      Our state forces us to track our sales, where they were made, which state we made them to. There’s no “tax vultures” just software. And no worker’s compensation doesn’t work like that. You have to be where you’re supposed to be.

    4. BigSky*

      It’s not just sales tax it’s income tax too. If you’re working in a state for a specific number of days you need to file your taxes there too. And if you think someone won’t find out they probably will when you think you’re in the clear. I know, I used to track this kind of stuff for my work.

    5. MeanieNini*

      You would be shocked to know how many times both the tax issues and worker’s compensation issues do come up and they are real. And not just for larger companies. I worked for a company with 55 employees where in the course of 6 years I worked there we had to open business nexus in 5 states and got our worker’s compensation insurance cancelled twice because employees were working in locations that our worker’s compensation did not cover. This is not a simple issue and it can cost a lot of money and even more time to work through. None of these issues came up because anyone was screaming that these employees were working in these locations. One happened because a contractor filed for unemployment against us. Another because we had a contract with a company who had a large state government contract and was required to submit all out of state contract vendors. Another was because we did have a legitimate worker’s compensation claim come up when an employee was working in another state. It’s not easy to untangle these relationships when they pop up either. That company is still having to file costly and time-consuming tax filings in 3 states that no one is working in and no one travels to because these issues got opened up. Those filings may be for “0” but they still have to be filed and they still cost the company money in CPA fees and state filing fees to complete them every year. In one of those states you cannot file to suspend these tax filings until you have a “0” for 10 years. Last, worker’s compensation carriers can and will cancel your contracts if they have to pay out anything that is not covered under a contract or happens in a location they do not actively cover.

    6. Head sheep counter*

      There are ways to get the flexibility you desire… but if your company doesn’t match your desires… that’s often on you to either comply or leave. Oddly employers have policies and reasons and they often don’t care that you find the policies and reasons silly.

      Security is a thing and its much more broad than highly sensitive industries or classified info (the classified info is not (should not) be available for WFH). Any dealing with personal information should be protected. Dealing with HR should be protected. Dealing with legal documents should have protection. Etc.

  70. Raida*

    I would just discuss it with my manager: What are the parameters for this?
    Is working in a library an issue?
    Is working in *another state* an issue?

    Where I work staff have to sign off on their remote workspace being suitable – that means ergonomically and equipment wise and in a location that is not negatively impacted such as by significant noise or significant interruptions.

    Essentially this protects the business in it’s responsibilities to provide these things by saying “If you *lie* to the business about this stuff and then you need work done on your neck from hunching over your laptop on the kitchen table, the we aren’t necessarily required to use WorkCover (insurance for staff illness and injury) to help you.”

    So, there could also be a concept of “acceptable workstation” that HR is not spelling out as well that you should consider.

  71. Tiger Snake*

    My company, the WFH agreement is very specific: you need to be able to showcase the specific location you’re going to work from. It needs to comply with all our standards and policies for safety, privacy, availability and effective working. Any alternative needs to be cleared in advanced and requires a specific work agreement to be written up between you and your manager; aka your manager must approve that specific LOCATION as your alternative work point.

    And among the requirements; there a specific difference your home office is allowed to be than your in-office workpoint. If your equipment fails, you are expected to come in and complete your workday.

  72. Daria grace*

    Another legitimate reason could be your desk set up. I’ve done jobs where you could work off just your laptop screen and/or from the couch for a day if you really really needed to but you’d be much more productive with a proper desk set up with a second monitor

  73. CV*

    A friend’s large company reduced their office space by 1/4 due to WFH. Some time later, management decided all WFH staff had to come into the office Tues-Wed-Th.
    Everyone complied. There were not enough chairs, even counting guest chairs and conference room chairs, and even fewer desks (had been hot-desking.)

  74. Letter Writer*

    Hey all, LW here. Thank you for your thoughts! A few points of clarity:

    1. I and several others actually already work from home in a different state from the office (I live right near a state border), so either this isn’t a problem for the company or they already have methods in place to handle that particular state, but I don’t know any of those details.
    2. Information security isn’t really a concern—I never work with any private or personal data, and I am not required to use a VPN. I was never even asked about my home wifi security, just to ensure that it’s stable so I’m not cutting in and out during meetings. All of our information is stored in places like Google Drive and Outlook, no extra security layers or anything.

    The only reason I was openly flouting the rule and talking about my travels is that I was under the impression that this was completely above board! Nobody ever said anything to me about it, including my manager and the rest of my team, so I just assumed that everything was fine and other people also were travelling at their leisure. (And to be clear, I was never in a car or on a plane during work hours—I usually take evening flights and then do all my work from someone’s home office or living room or similar).

    When I wrote in I was really perturbed about the idea having to change my plans and rhythm of life, since I have gotten used to visiting people at least once a month, so I wanted there to be an option where I just carried on as usual. But some time reflecting, as well as Alison’s response and all of your comments sharing real reasons why this policy might exist, have convinced me that I should talk to Lucinda and/or my manager to see if I can get clarity on whether I can request remote work days from time to time, and what the purpose of the policy is. Thank you all again for weighing in!

    1. Observer*

      I and several others actually already work from home in a different state from the office

      Is Texas one of the states that your company has a “nexus”? If not, that could be an issue for them. Also, not all taxes are State level – in New York City, for instance there is a State sales tax and a City tax. Same for income tax. And labor laws also can be more granular than State level. So all of this can be a whole lot more complicated than it looks at first glance.

      Information security isn’t really a concern—I never work with any private or personal data, and I am not required to use a VPN. I was never even asked about my home wifi security

      There is a lot of data that is highly sensitive that is not personal. And the fact that your company never did the basics of remote security doesn’t mean that it’s not important. It probably means that they don’t have the budget, expertise and / or willingness to make the investments. But at the same time, they may realize that there are some potential issues, so they are pushing this line.

      Also, if your computer or connection gets compromised, that could be the entry point into the system that allows a criminal a lot more access than you actually have. In fact, there is a class of hacks called “escalation of privilege” which simply means a way to get the highest level of access via an account that originally had very little access.

      All of our information is stored in places like Google Drive and Outlook, no extra security layers or anything.

      If you are using the enterprise products that are properly set up, these systems actually have a fairly high level of security built in. So it’s hard to know how much this matters.

      But some time reflecting, as well as Alison’s response and all of your comments sharing real reasons why this policy might exist, have convinced me that I should talk to Lucinda and/or my manager to see if I can get clarity on whether I can request remote work days from time to time, and what the purpose of the policy is.

      That’s a very wise decision. Even if it turns out that you company is just being unreasonable, you are still kind of stuck with this. But if you are doing good work, and there really is some flexibility, you are much better off trying to get permission than just continuing on with what you have been doing.

      I hope your conversation goes well!

    2. Sparkling Stardust*

      Thanks for asking the question and for adding some more information. I’m interested in the question too.

      I was hired for a fully remote position in 2023, and I’m not located in the same state as the company that I work for. It is my first fully remote position although I did work from home during the pandemic for 15 months until I started to go back as a hybrid employee. Everything I do can be done remotely so it was not a problem to be hired from out of state. I have worked at an airport with a hot spot and VPN because I would not trust an airport WiFi.

      I thought that one of the benefits of considering taking a fully remote position was that I could have more flexibility to work from home, a coworking space, or from a friend or relatives home. All the reasons that an employer might have a policy about where you work remotely is helpful.

      When there was a storm that knocked out the Internet at my home for a couple of days, I worked at the local public library on their WIFI. I have to join my employer’s VPN every day on my computer to even use any of the programs or open any files.

      When I travel to visit family that live in another state, I bring my laptop, keyboard, mouse, and an additional external monitor along with me. While I occasionally will reserve a coworking space, I usually set up a work space from my relatives home. My mother in law is rather chatty though, and if I can’t concentrate as well so I do sometimes book a coworking space part of the time.

      Recently at an appointment with an esthetician, she asked my if I was there while “working”… She told me some people are “working” while they are at their appointment… on a conference call, or forewarned her they might need to take their calls, etc. I don’t know what their situation is between hourly and salary, so that might also make a difference, but no I was not working while I was there.

    3. Jiminy Cricket*

      Good for you for asking! Lots of companies are still trying to figure this out and the rules really aren’t always clear.

      Fwiw, our company has a list of states where we already have a business nexus. The rule is to clear any out-of-state work ahead of time, but the answer will be yes as often as possible, because we know how important it is as a benefit.

  75. Constable George Crabtree*

    This is technically a rule at my workplace, but a lot of managers look the other way about it. It’s the sort of thing you’d need to jump past director-level management and out of our branch for anyone to care, so we collectively just count on the autonomy we’re given by quietly bending the rule without breaking any tax laws (ie, no working out of state for more than one pay period at a time). So far that’s been great and allows people a lot of freedom and satisfaction. You could probe your manager and see if that’s something they care much about? I’d feel safe if I only needed to hide it from an HR head that doesn’t interact with me, but if your manager agrees with that sentiment then you might be stuck :/

  76. Fickle Pickle*

    Maybe I’m missing something, but how is it ok for my boss to send me to a convention in another state, but this isn’t ok?

    1. Petty Patty*

      Someone addressed this upthread; conferences and conventions are usually classified as training, and not as work done for your company.

  77. BigSky*

    My office doesn’t allow you to work from someplace other than your home due to our state’s worker’s compensation laws. If you say you’re at home and you get hurt there it’s “at work”, if you’re not and you’re not in travel status then their liability changes and in one case a worker was “working remotely” but had his kid with him, a terrible thing happened and the child died and my work was on the hook for the liability. Some work places aren’t trying to make this difficult but laws are complex.

  78. HiddenC*

    My current job is the first WFH job I’ve ever had (2019-2023 I worked for a small business owner/luddite micromanager who refused to even consider it in 2020), and I was so excited about it when I got the job offer because I wanted to be able to visit family while working remotely during the week. Then one of my friends told me that his job (different industry) required him to physically be at home and nowhere else, and I became nervous, but thankfully it turned out that my employer couldn’t care less where we’re working from. My coworkers actually mostly live in other countries, but they get paid as contractors, only the US-based people are W2 employees. Everyone travels, though, and will let us know they’re in another city/state/country that week. Now, we’re not in the sales department, all of those employees are located in the main office, so maybe that negates the potential tax issue.

  79. Hillary*

    my workplace is government, and we call it “telework” not work from home, but you do need to list a primary work address, and get proactive permission if you are working while traveling. Right now, remote work out of state is the legal issue as Alison outlined it can be. I also as a manager will tell people that meetings need to have some privacy (and lack of overwhelming background noise), and have asked staff to be in a situation they can be on camera if they have to. If that is a car, a hotel room, or a coffee shop, and they can manage it, then fine. I’ve told others they can’t work from home because they can’t manage these things or other major ones, like a laptop having reliable power, not being able to hear a phone call, or doing the previously mentioned “you might need to be on camera” meeting, clearly ready not to be on camera when I asked them to go on camera. I would ask the reasoning for the rule, then outline how you will fully meet that reasoning in your selection of workplace.

    1. CamerasOff*

      why oh why would it get a requirement to be on camera? I don’t get it. It eats up bandwidth and can cause problems for everyone on the call, not just that person. As someone who has been working remotely for a long time, this is one area where I wish we’d go back to the pre-pandemic norm of all camera off.

  80. Xyz*

    Some of it is about optics. If you make it clear that you are traveling often and working from different locations it can really make it look like you are constantly on vacation and the job is an afterthought. As a manager, I would also worry that this would increase the likelihood of disruptions in the work day- maybe you can’t connect to wifi at one place, maybe you are delayed or unavailable more often for various reasons while you are somewhere new. You are more likely not to have all of your equipment ( such as big monitors) while traveling. All of that can affect job performance. I would say it’s fine to do this on special occasions, but not as a regular occurrence.

  81. Parttimer*

    My state sees many times more tourists than residents a year, and many of these tourist post-Covid are “remote worker/vacationers” who might spend weeks or months here, but think they don’t need to pay taxes because it’s not their home state. And I get the “well who cares about taxes, no one will know!” argument. But also, if you’re using local services for weeks on end and ignoring tax laws, that’s not cool and harmful to residents of that state.

  82. Trick or Treatment*

    Not sure if that’s more a European thing, but at my previous employers they also explained it as an insurance thing, because our employer is still responsible for “accidents at work” in home office. If we were frequently working from another location like parents’ house, we would’ve needed to add it officially as a home address (and confirm that it meets the requirements for safe home office).

    Coffee shops etc definitely a no-no for us, due to confidential data we were working with.

  83. Walter*

    It’s “Work From Home” not “Work From Anywhere”. Be grateful you have the opportunity for the former, and stop whining for the latter.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Actually, it’s “Remote Work”.

      If you think of it as only “Work From Home“, then yes, you are restricted by your own mind.

      But wanting flexibility is not “whining”. And demanding gratitude while accusing someone of whining is a really shitty thing.

      While tax issues are present when crossing state lines, many large companies have a tax nexus in all 50 states. Each company has their own policies, of course, but the problem comes when the company suddenly changes that policy and then acts like it was always that was.

  84. Lily Potter*

    My answers to the OP’s actual questions:

    Is only working from my actual home a normal thing for an employer to mandate?
    It’s not universal to all employers that work remotely, but it’s a totally normal requirement.

    And regardless, what’s the best way for me to proceed? Should I apologize to someone (my supervisor, Lucinda, someone else?) for having been out of town on previous work from home days and explain that I didn’t know the policy? I have spoken to some coworkers on a different team who feel similarly — should we together tell Lucinda we don’t think the policy makes sense? Should I just continue my visits, but keep quiet about it?

    I agree that you don’t need to apologize to Lucinda for past actions. You truly didn’t know about the policy ….. but now you DO know, and you have to follow the rules if you want to keep your job. Pushing back on management is a risk you’ll have to assess for yourself. You can try it if you like, but you do risk becoming known as “that new guy/girl that got management all worked up about WFH”. As someone with only six months’ tenure at your job, you’re not exactly swimming in standing to make a fuss about a perfectly reasonable office policy. Only if “working remotely from anywhere” is something that means so much to you that you’re willing to not work for the company anymore over it (via getting terminated or leaving on your own), would I tell you to band together with others to push back.

  85. WhyIsEverythingBananas*

    There’s a really strong cottage culture where I live. A large number of folks who can afford it either have, share, or rent a cottage for significant chunks of the summer. These cottages are usually 1-5 hours’ drive from the major city in my province. A LOT of people see WFH as a benefit because they can go work from “the lake”! However, some workplaces this isn’t kosher – mainly, the clause tends to be that they don’t care where precisely you work…but you should generally be available to come in for short-notice meetings. It depends on the workplace, your position, and your tasks. It’s not unreasonable to ask for permission to work from the cottage, especially if you have reliable internet (hooray for tethering phone data) – but usually you should ask. This may be acceptable as an exception to a work from home policy, especially if it’s just on Mondays and Fridays and you’re still getting your work done. But if you’re working from the lake you EXTRA need to show productivity – so it’s not “working” from home. It can be politically tricky if you’re a manager of people who don’t have this privilege, as well, because they are going to perceive that you’re slacking off (even if you aren’t). So long story short, even in a province with a very strong work from home/work from the lake culture, and an overall very casual work culture, you have to navigate this ‘work from home but not at home’ question carefully.

    Another element is that if you work at a company with many branches in different cities, sometimes you can get arrangements to work at a different office or it can be easier to justify working away from home if you’ve travelled to a city that hosts a branch of your company.

  86. Joy*

    I’ve teleworked for 20+ years (2 days a week). My employer’s policy was always that the remote location home office had to be pre-approved, meet IT requirements for bandwidth and cyber security, and comply with standard safety measures.

    Towards the end of a long, long phone meeting at home, I stood up to stretch, fell, and damaged my knee. Such a silly, stupid accident – with audio witnesses no less.

    It had to be filed though worker’s comp. I was told if I used regular insurance, it would be insurance fraud. And had I been out and about at a coffee shop or other non-approved secondary location – the whole thing would be nightmare to figure out coverage.

    In the following months of specialist appointments and rehab, I was very happy that I’d been following all the rules.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yup, workers’ comp is another good reason for the OP not to keep quiet and ignore her management’s wfh policy.
      The risk of an accident may be small, but the financial & job consequences can be huge.

  87. WorkFromWherever*

    I find this fascinating. I’ve been working hybrid most of the time since the early 90s and mostly fully remote for almost a decade now. This spans dozens of employers (I’ve had a mix of fulltime jobs and vontracts). I’ve never had anyone suggest WAH literally meant work in the place you live.

    I’ve worked from my parents’ house in another state a few times. I’ve worked in coffee shops and libraries a lot. I used to fairly regularly work at a coffeeshop in the morning, take a long lunch at a restaurant (not working), then go work at the library in the afternoon. I’ve worked at hospitals between dr appts. My friends have worked at hospitals waiting to pick me up from procedures requiring someone else to sign you out. For years I actually worked in my apartment building’s resident lounge when I worked at home because the building wifi was stronger there. I’ve worked at a friend’s house the day before Passover starts because it’s easier to pick me up in the morning than closer to seder time. It would never occur to me to mention any of these to an employer unless I was planning to mix and match work and vacation time when visiting my parents (for example). I have a coworker who literally drove across 10 states the last two days and worked via phone part of the time. She’ll be working from her destination for some amount of time. Our HR director has a second home a couple of states away and she works from there all the time.

  88. Anon Aardvark*

    Everyone thinks this working-while-traveling thing has no impact on their performance of job duties and it pretty much always does in very obvious ways.

  89. Jake*

    If your work office is in an income tax state, and your home office is in a non-income tax state, it is possible to not pay state income tax on your income while working from the home office. Of course, this requires proper tracking. In such cases, you are also subject to the work regulations of the state you are working from if you are non-exempt from the FLSA. State taxation comes down to more of intent and frequency. My metro area encompases two states, one of which has a state income tax, and one that does not.

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