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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".

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    I feel like "when things are less chaotic" is an extremely vague and anomalous term which could well be "Never". I think it's fair to ask her what "less chaotic" would look like. – BSMP May 3 at 6:01
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While it hasn't been specifically this, I've had to negotiate to keep flexible arrangements after changes in management and institutional-memory decay. Here's how I've successfully approached it.

  • Demonstrate that you are a team player. If there is a *temporary problem that is motivating this, be willing to talk about it. Convey that you want to do what's right for both the team and the individuals on it.

  • But ask questions. What changed? What has your manager concerned now? Is this about your team (maybe there's a super-critical contract you're bidding on and at risk of losing), or is your manager spooked because that one person on that other team over there turned out to be playing Nintendo at home instead of working? How is the request tied to your team and current projects? How will you and your manager know when this temporary need has ended and you can go back to your original arrangement?

  • Convey clearly that this is a negative change for you. Some people might not care all that much, or might think the office espresso machine makes up for not being able to stream music. You're not one of those people; your manager needs to know this.

  • Ask for the accommodations you need. Open plans and cube farms suck and you can't fix that, but would that spot in the corner away from most of the noisy people help? Would it make a difference if the company paid for your parking? Do you need the flexibility to leave at a certain time because you need to be home for family or don't drive at night or whatever?

I was going to give you some sample phrasing, but it sounded too much like a speech. You need to have an interactive conversation with your manager, and if you have to be in the office anyway sometimes, be sure to do it in person for the extra bandwidth. Start the conversation by reiterating the things I put in bold -- you care about the team's success, this would be a big, negative change for you, and you have some questions and concerns.

Unless your manager is being actively sneaky or evil, you should be able to get a sense of what's really going on and how much of a deal-killer your working from home is for them while conveying that you're otherwise happy and a good team player and you'd like to keep the arrangement that's been working for years.

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    I was presented with this via an email, perhaps showing how they think this is not a big deal. My usual in office time would truly end up at maybe 3-4 times a year unless specifically requested. My manager is over a few teams and I think the others are all in the office, so I'm curious if perhaps she thinks some overall team issues are being caused by having less of us physically in the office (where reasonably possible without relocation). If I get a flat out "No" or a fishy explanation, should I just accept and begin looking for a new team? – Vistance May 3 at 2:41
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    @Vistance only you can decide if it's time to bail, but if they value you as you think they do, with luck they're willing to have a conversation about everybody's needs. Your manager might not realize this is a big deal to you, and won't know unless you raise the issue. – Monica Cellio May 3 at 3:21
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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".

Since you seem sure that you will be asked to stop working from home, are being taken advantage of, and can't be easily replaced, you should use this opportunity to take a stand.

Tell your manager that you need to work from home and not be asked to come into the office. Make sure they understand that this is not negotiable and that you would leave if necessary.

There's no need to lie about other positions, just make sure they understand how vital this is for you.

Meanwhile, make sure your resume is up to date. While they can't replace you quickly, they will be able to do so eventually. Nobody likes to be taken advantage of and apparently working at the office doesn't meet your needs.

Maybe you'll get lucky and they will accede to your demands. Or maybe you'll need to find a fully work-from-home job and leave. Either way, you'll end up with what you indicate you want.

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A bit of tactical advice that the other answers don't cover:

"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."

Don't mention this. It is a weak argument and will detract from other, better arguments you could make.

You don't want to draw too much attention to the fact that that creature comforts are better at home. While it does make it easier to work most people believe that either a) it isn't relevant or b) it means you are more likely to indulge in non-work activities. Your example of music is also trivially solvable: download the music (this isn't as good but is enough to shut down the argument).

Instead you should focus on the big picture stuff like time commitments and workflow.

For this reason I would also avoid mentioning financial burdens unless they are significant (more than 5% of your wage) and even then I would be cautious. It wouldn't be unreasonable for them to ask you to put a figure on this and if you do they might take you up on that offer! Adding 1000 to your salary (then taking this out of your raise) would be a very cheap way to bring you back into the office.

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More stress - While many companies have physical and mental wellness programs, your stress level being higher due to being in the office isn't going to sway the issue in your favor. The majority of working adults have to go to work to their employers place of business. This isn't a solid argument for your working from home.

Less time working - But you won't spend less time working. You're not going to be deducting that time from your working hours. I'm sure that you're expected to spend a full day in the office regardless of how much time it takes you to get ready for work, commute to work, walk from the parking garage to the office, etc. You don't get to deduct that time from the time you spend in the office. Everyone who works at their employers place of business has the same challenge. If it takes me 2 hours to get ready for work and to commute to the office I still have to spend 8 hours in the office working. I don't get to reduce my office time by the amount of time I spend getting there.

More distractions - You may be able to use this to sell your argument if you can show that you're less productive as a result. On the other hand, they may feel that as a working adult that you should be able to focus on your job regardless of distractions.

Greater expenses all around - This isn't really your employers concern. While many companies may have parking reimbursement, public transportation assistance, etc. It really isn't their responsibility to pay for your parking and transportation costs. These are the personal costs of being a working adult.

All in all, you haven't made any compelling arguments (in my opinion) as to why you should be allowed to continue working from home.

Telling your employer "I don't want to work in the office because it isn't convenient for me and isn't a good fit for my lifestyle" isn't going to win you any points in persuading them to your side of the issue.

Maybe think of the ways that you're more productive and efficient working from home and try to sell those points instead.

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    So in my position, you'd just take it? Just start working in the office? There is zero reason for this sudden shift, I've run through all of them and the only ones I can think of are petty or malicious, a power move to show me "who's the boss". And the risks they expose themselves to at pushing for it are really high with no pay off, unless they didn't care about retaining me. Perhaps I didn't make it clear, but I work an effective 9-10 hours at home. In the office, that time is easily closer to 7-8 effective hours, and I will not stay hours late. – Vistance May 3 at 1:39
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    Take it? That's a little extreme. They're not persecuting you. The majority of working adults have to go to work at their employers place of business. If you want to convince them to allow you to work from home then you have to give them compelling reasons for it. As it stands, none of the reasons you've stated are compelling. – joeqwerty May 3 at 1:56
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    And don't be fooled that you can't be replaced because what you do is so vital. You may play an important role, but none of are irreplaceable. The business my stumble for a moment, but my guess is that they'd weather your leaving just fine in the long term. I've never seen a healthy business fail because a single "vital" person left. If you believe that to be the case with you, then by all means make any demands of them that you see fit. – joeqwerty May 3 at 1:59
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    So I ask you then, it is not like I joined in a full time in office position then converted to work from home. The position I joined the company with was work from home and was advertised as such years ago.This shift is unexpected, and if there's any lapse in performance I have received zero notification of it so I'm left to wonder the true motive of the change. Perhaps my reasons aren't "good enough" for the in office crowd, but the work at home aspect was a huge reason for the position in the first place. – Vistance May 3 at 2:33
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    In that line of Arguments you could also argue that due to having to drive to the Office you have to spent some of your spare-time on the way which leaves you with less time to rest which in turn leaves you more tired and less productive at work. Since you mentioned that the Position was advertised as work from home you could also argue that you have no interest in changing working conditions that were critical for you to apply there in the first place. You should however be carefull with your wording since this can be interpreted as a threat to leave – ndcHunter May 3 at 11:47
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But my manager has asked me to do this until things are calmed down a bit

she said "things have been a bit chaotic lately"

This is key I'm surprised no one mentioned this, there is something happening in upper management that you don't know about it could be many things, perhaps people getting into office late? or another remote peer performing poorly? another departments being jealous of remote positions? who knows, you may ask your manager directly about it like "hey I've been working like this for several years is there any problem I don't know about" but don't expect an answer

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In any job, there is what you give to the company, and there is what the company gives to you, and these two things must be in a reasonably relation to each other. Good companies look for things that make their employees happy (without costing the company much money), and being able to work from home is such a thing.

Your manager wants to take this away from you. You say that the company actually gets less work done from you, although that may be just your opinion. But what is clear is that you will be getting much less from the company for your work. Your salary is worth much less with the cost of transport, and the time of transport, added to your expenses.

So that is something you need to make clear to the manager. That this decision makes the job with them much less competitive with other jobs. I would avoid saying that you might be looking for other jobs, but you can imply it.

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