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I started a new job about a month ago. I'm in the IT department of a medium sized company. They have two offices that are relatively close together. When I accepted the job I understood that I would be working out of different locations on different days. I had assumed this meant something like one week at Location A and the next at Location B etc. Currently it's basically random and I often find out the day before. This is causing me stress and inconvenience. When switching between the two locations I need to bring my belongings and work gear (including a laptop and its docking station) so I need to bring a large enough bag on these days. Also I sometimes don't go straight home from work and go to other activities. I asked the manager "what is the rotation schedule?" and he gave a non-answer "there isn't one yet, it still needs to be created" and then walked away. I don't know why we even rotate between the two locations instead of just being assigned to one. It seems like everyone else is on a fairly fixed schedule.

In general I've been having a little trouble adjusting to the manager's communication style. I never get the chance to talk to him one on one. He always CCs the whole department when replying to emails. He seems sort of invested in getting out of doing work and just laughs at everything. He also seems to only be in the office for 4 hours at random times. I'm not saying these things are unethical or unprofessional, I'm just saying I'm not used to it.

What's the best way to address this issue? I think I should send an email to my manager asking for clarity. I'm having trouble knowing what exactly to ask for. For example:

"Hi Manager. I was wondering if I could get more details on my rotation schedule and where I can expect to be working? Would I be able to know a few days in advance instead of learning the day before where I'll be working from?"

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    How close is "relatively close"? I'm trying to see if there's enough difference in either location or distance that it can be used to help add justification to your goals. Example: if the buildings are across the road from one another, you couldn't argue it based on location/distance. Other example: if one is next to your child's daycare and the other has a significantly longer travel time to the daycare, that's a valid argument to bring up.
    – Flater
    Aug 3, 2023 at 1:57
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    About the bag thing: can't you just leave it at work permamently, so it's always where your equipment is?
    – TonyK
    Aug 3, 2023 at 11:44
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    Do you have any coworkers who are in the same situation as you are ? How do they handle this ? Have they talked to the manager about it yet ? Aug 3, 2023 at 18:26
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    @Flater it's close to a 30 minute bus ride between the two
    – Maximothe1
    Aug 4, 2023 at 4:17
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    @Maximothe1 That’s not close! Close to each other would be a five-minute walk. A 30-minute bus ride would be in opposite ends of the city where I live. Aug 4, 2023 at 8:54

4 Answers 4

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I expect that you floating between sites is a "half person" problem, where they need 2.5 people at one site and 1.5 at the other (for example) and they need flexibility based on emergent requirements. If that's the case then more than a day's notice might not be possible.

One thing I would suggest to your manager is to duplicate whatever equipment is possible at the two worksites. Having a docking station with mouse and keyboard available at either site is a pretty reasonable request. I would phrase the request in terms of limiting the amount of company equipment that you would be responsible for outside of company property and outside of working hours.

"Hey boss, can we get me an X, Y, and Z for each site as opposed to me carting them along with me? With how much gear I'm hauling all over, I'm concerned if something gets damaged or lost and I'll be responsible for it or without it while we wait for a replacement."

This might not solve the problem entirely but it will make it easier to change between sites.

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    Yes, the whole idea of a docking station is that you bring only your laptop, and not any peripherals, isn't it?
    – Berend
    Aug 3, 2023 at 8:30
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    @HappyIdiot The continual carrying a laptop around is also an added security risk
    – Peter M
    Aug 3, 2023 at 18:19
  • @HappyIdiot It also has it's downsides though. If the environment is not entirely cloudified (i.e. everything is on some company server, employees NFS/SSH/RDP in or pull/push stuff up/down every time they work), OP has to make sure all important stuff is available on both laptops - which may cause more trouble than worth, and may not even be entirely possible.
    – Neinstein
    Aug 4, 2023 at 15:14
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    Having a docking station with mouse and keyboard available at either site is a pretty reasonable request 100%. There are plenty of legitimate reasons - including security at each physical location preventing leaving actual computers in place, a need for private (i.e., specific to the employee) data on the computer and a number of other reasons - why having a physical computer at each location. But a docking station in each main location is reasonable, and if OP gets sent once to a new location then use the laptop without the docking station and requistion one if it becomes a "regular". Aug 4, 2023 at 15:42
  • @HappyIdiot There are many different possibilities. For example, one of the workplaces may be a shared office space, so that the company can't put in the same type of controls as in other places, which would not be a big concern for docking station/monitor/etc. (because worst that happens is they get stolen and you buy new ones0 but could be a serious issue for confidential information on computers. Ideal? No. But can definitely happen. And to be honest, I think the primary use for laptops is if you do cart them around. If not, get desktops. Aug 4, 2023 at 16:54
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This definitely sounds rough, so you're going to talk to your manager, efficiently.

To communicate efficiently with your manager, your first task is to understand your side better. This will allow you to both present a more solid case to your manager, and to be able to better react to new arguments/issues presented.

It's also a good idea to prepare alternatives/suggestions in case what you're asking for is not possible, and once again this requires understanding what are the exact issues on your side. Bosses are not all-knowing, and quite often just handle things on the fly -- or let them slide if they don't quite know what to do. Bringing them a suggestion, rather than an open-ended question, makes their job easier... and helps you get what you want.

My advice, therefore, is to start a list (or table). Don't expect to finish it in one go, instead start it, and add to it over the course of a week. Sleeping on it is quite likely to reveal new problems/suggestions, take advantage of it.

Your list should be composed of:

  • A list of the issues you encounter with the current situation.
  • For each issue, possible alternatives/suggestions.

You've already given a few pointers, so let's try it out:

  • Stress: not knowing where you'll be working tomorrow is stressful for you.
    • Suggestion A: alternating sites on a daily or weekly basis.
    • Suggestion B: choosing (yourself) which site to work on on a particular day, with perhaps some metric such as "at least 40% of the month at site X" or "at least 2 days per full week at site X".
  • Gear: lots of gear to haul, with risk of damage/loss.
    • Suggestion C: double peripherals, at the very least screen + docking station, possibly keyboard + mouse. This may also mean double decks, or a locker, etc...
  • Plans: hard to plan meetings, or shared tasks with teammates.
    • Suggestions A & B would definitely help here, with B making it easier to be reactive.

Go through the exercise, familiarize yourself with the issues you face and try to figure out more suggestions.

Then schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss it:

Topic: Improving my haphazard schedule.

Hey boss,

My current lack of schedule is stressful and very inconvenient for me, so I'd like to meet with you for 15 minutes to expose my problems and offer a few suggestions of my own that I think would be beneficial for myself and the team.

Regards, X.

Important points:

  • The topic is clear.
  • You clearly mention that you have suggestions.
  • Because the first word in the topic is "Improving", it doesn't sound like a complaint ;)

Good luck, and let us know how it went.

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    In my experience, most managers do not care about your "stress level" - especially if the manager is stressed out. Focus on the "Gear" and "Plans" aspect, because that impacts your manager. Not that you caring about your manager's stress should be a priority if they don't care about yours, but this at least frames the conversation in how a change could benefit them, rather than hearing it benefits you and inconveniences the manager. Aug 2, 2023 at 17:08
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    @Greg Good managers do (for good reason - stressed people make mistakes, are not very efficient, might switch jobs,..) so I would at least bring it up (except if it's already clear that you have a horrible manager, but then I'd consider switching jobs before settling in..)
    – Voo
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:26
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    @Happy Only stressed, bad managers don't.
    – Voo
    Aug 3, 2023 at 14:42
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    So I sent an email. His response was to come out the schedule for the next week but is still working on something more permanent. I don't mean to phrase this rudely but I don't get what the holdup is; what's there to think about? While having next week's schedule is helpful, I'm starting to see a pattern of band aid solutions.
    – Maximothe1
    Aug 4, 2023 at 4:19
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    I'd hit the thing about plans and meetings hard. If you've had a "hey, can you come take a look at x" "yeah, next time I'm at Site A I'll let you know" situation, hammer that home as a detriment to your coworkers and the team as a whole. I also think "haphazard" is maybe the wrong word--it feels like it casts blame. "Improving and standardizing my schedule" gets the point across
    – Kaia
    Aug 4, 2023 at 19:06
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Talk, call or email your manager to explain that it would be wonderful if you can have the schedule in advance a few days before the work dates.

In your conversation with the manager, don't make it look like you strongly demand that he must let you know the schedule a few days in advance. Instead, make it look like you would greatly appreciate it if he can help you out by sending the schedule to you early or a few days in advance so that you can plan ahead.

Explain to him what you wrote in your post such as:

Currently it's basically random and I often find out the day before. This is causing me stress and inconvenience. When switching between the two locations I need to bring my belongings and work gear (including a laptop and its docking station) so I need to bring a large enough bag on these days.

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    Agree on this, but would add it would be rhetorically useful if you could describe it as both an individual problem and a team problem. Eg you could mention problems you've noticed across the team with the last minute scheduling decisions.
    – Adam Burke
    Aug 2, 2023 at 14:52
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"Dear Manager,

In order to best meet the team's needs for a consistent approach for IT support, from the 15th of Xmonth, my working schedule for each site will be as follows;

Monday/Tuesday/Friday - Location A

Wednesday/Thursday - Location B.

Please let me know if you would like to amend this schedule"

He won't set a schedule until you propose one.

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    I agree with suggesting a schedule, but the forceful approach may NOT be appreciated. Aug 3, 2023 at 14:41
  • @MatthieuM. I'm not sure this is forceful. It is just pragmatic and demonstrating the ability to manage your own time and understand the needs of the business. Only the wrong type of manager would take this poorly.
    – scotty3785
    Aug 3, 2023 at 14:53
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    It is forceful because it takes "ownership" of a responsibility the manager assumed so far, and force a schedule. This is very different from proposing a schedule, and letting the manager acquiesce. Even a nice manager may feel that this is an overreach from OP's part. As for the needs of the business... what makes you think OP knows them? Given how non-communicative their manager has been so far, OP may have no idea why they're yanked hither and tither... Aug 3, 2023 at 15:04
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    I agree their behavior is not great, and that's all the more reason to me to tread cautiously. As for being a micromanager? We have way too little data to jump to such a conclusion, it's not productive to speculate. Aug 4, 2023 at 8:15
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    I agree with @MatthieuM., this email will come across as rude, and would suggest a gross lack of understanding the roles from OP's side. OP is not in charge of their site sheclude, the manager is. OP can ask or suggest a change, but can not make the decision, as this email does. You may want to change "will" to "could be" and rephrase accordingly.
    – Neinstein
    Aug 4, 2023 at 15:23

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