I have worked in the same team for 5+ years and at the same company for almost 6 years. We experienced many changes in management and direction. The vast majority of people who used to be on my team left, but I remained. As someone who has been on my team I feel I have a lot of knowledge and am always positive and helpful even when I personally don't know how to help with an issue. I have knowledge of many systems which are not well documented (I have helped create lots of documentation, but there are still gaps and I've been told not to waste time on doing more of this with the other things that needed to be done).
Recently, my manager asked me to come into the office to work for a couple of days. I reluctantly did so, I am within about 25 miles of the office so felt I didn't have a good reason to decline since I never go in hardly. I found the days I was in the office genuinely more distracting, more frustrating sitting through rush hour traffic both ways, I had less time to do actual work since I'm walking from a parking garage a few blocks away and far more conscious of what time it is.
My manager did not really pay much attention to me being in person at all, I only chatted with her a few times. I thought I might get a bit more focused attention, figuring I am perhaps "not working enough" at home but she never even checked on me once I came in. I always make sure my tasks are done for the day, although we went from being a more flexible team (work on whatever, let us know on the stand up of progress/barriers) but lately it has gotten far more strict about who can make stories, tasks, how they're written, who moves them, etc. so I have gotten bad about not tracking all the things I work on since there's so much red tape involved - but I'm certainly not twiddling my thumbs all day.
Otherwise, to me the pros of working in the office:
Better communication in meetings (in person) - lots of side conversations happen that I can tell I'm missing on the phone
Greater sense of quick communication - easy to just walk to someone's desk and ask them something
However the cons to me seem far more numerous:
More stress. I found myself tired once I got home and not willing to do much else. I got less sleep, felt more tired waking up. At home, I stream music while working which helps me concentrate. I'm not permitted to do so from my work computer and don't want to eat all my data plan up streaming music, so this is just not an option at work unless I somehow download it beforehand.
Less time working. I spend more time walking to and from my car, getting dressed, sitting in traffic, etc. that at home I spend actually working since it's just booting my computer up and starting on tasks.
More distractions. I thought I sometimes got distracted at home, but it's much worse for me at work. People walking by chatting, other cubicles people talking on the phone, the constant thought that someone might just walk up on you and start chatting no matter what you're doing. I also found myself talking with someone, them asking me to do something, then getting back to my desk and totally forgetting what they asked me to do. From home, I always IM or get an email and use that to make sure I take care of things people ask me to do. I stay later plenty of the time when I'm at home, but in the office once 5 PM or so rolls around and others around me are all leaving I feel like packing up and leaving too. My boss does not stay late, so it's not as though I feel pressured to keep working later either.
Greater expenses all around. I have to pay to park, rather high prices too. More money spent on gas driving back and forth, I save on insurance because my cars are leisure but will have to convert one to commute which will raise my rates. I'll also have to spend more on a policy that covers my car in the parking lot in case it gets vandalized for my personal peace of mind. I also have to bring a lunch or buy it, considering I'm bad at preparing things in advance that means I'll end up just buying lunch when I'm in the office.
I would really like to just keep things as they are. I'm content enough with how they're going that I wouldn't be looking to jump ship or anything. But my manager has asked me to do this until things are calmed down a bit and only to be in the office a few days out of the week, since she said "things have been a bit chaotic lately". I'm honestly not sure what she's talking about, as while we have lots of new work always coming in from my perspective things have been rapid pace but not chaotic. I feel like instead this is a foot in the door to never being full time work from home again, in which case I would seriously consider looking for another team or even another company. We have other work from home associates, but they are located states away which I think protects them from being asked to do so like I have been.
My original manager who hired me was a strong advocate for the advantages of working from home, but since then the managers have varied on their stance - though none have ever asked directly to come in the office besides for special occasions (which I usually did always partake in, and enjoyed).
How should I approach my manager to basically say I don't think working in the office is beneficial for me and will be detrimental? I don't feel like they would easily toss me aside, as I perform many vital roles that in my absence there is no one who would be able to quickly fill that void, but feel I'm being taken advantage of here after being more than reasonable with changes that drove most of the rest of my team to find greener pastures. Not sure if I should mention I had considered looking for other positions, especially since I do not have any lined up or in mind at the moment. Should I ask for a commitment on a limited time which I would do this arrangement? I feel like "when things are less chaotic" is an extremely vague and anomalous term which could well be "Never".